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Posts Tagged ‘Song Yang’

The Final Master

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

THE FINAL MASTER (2015) is the third movie from writer/director Xu Haofeng, again based on his own novel. I remember seeing a trailer for this and thinking about going to see it – man, I blew it, I could have had these great movies in my life years ago!

This one continues the stylistic and historical progression from THE SWORD IDENTITY (Ming Dynasty) and JUDGE ARCHER (1920s), taking place in the city of Tianjin starting in 1932. It explores some of the same themes of fighters navigating the staid traditions of martial arts to make sure their preferred styles can be passed on to the next generation – aging men trying to secure their legacies and young men trying to prove themselves. This one involves the last Wing Chun Grandmaster Chen (Liao Fan, BLACK COAL, THIN ICE) striking a deal with ready-to-retire Grandmaster Zheng (Chin Shi-chieh, REIGN OF ASSASSINS, THE GUILLOTINES, THE GRANDMASTER) to help him set up a school in Tianjin. (read the rest of this shit…)

Judge Archer

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

JUDGE ARCHER (2012) is the second film directed by martial artist/novelist/writer of THE GRANDMASTER Xu Haofeng. It’s arguably more accessible than his debut, THE SWORD IDENTITY, because it’s bigger, has way more action, and is not too hung up on realism to exaggerate the martial arts. But by the end the story had taken so many oddball turns that even I couldn’t quite follow it all.

That’s okay. It’s an unusual martial arts experience that I recommend if you’re open minded and enjoy the good things in life such as duels, arrows, swords, etc.

Song Yang (who also starred in THE SWORD IDENTITY) plays a young man who goes mad after an atrocity that has just happened when the opening titles end. We don’t have to see anything, but the way it’s depicted is horrifying: a rough wind blows through the corn fields, and three farmers stand watching as two men pin him down. Just over a hill he can hear his sister screaming, and then a guy comes over the hill, pulling his pants up, and leaves with the other two men.

Suddenly we find our guy bound and gagged in a monastery. The monks found him in a rage, blaming himself for not being able to stop the attack on his sister. They perform a ritual for him to be reborn, telling him “When you jump over the wall, the words spoken by the first person you meet will be your new name.” On his journey he hears someone yelling “Judge Archer!” followed by gun shots, so when an old monk hiding in the bushes asks him his name he says, “Judge Archer.” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Sword Identity

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

THE SWORD IDENTITY is a 2011 period martial arts movie that’s the debut of writer/director Xu Haofeng, based on his own book. He’s directed a few more movies since then and notably wrote THE GRANDMASTER for Wong Kar Wai. I adore that movie and all its poetic musings about kung fu styles and secret moves, so I tried this one out and, though it’s in many ways THE GRANDMASTER’s stylistic opposite, I was not disappointed.

From the title I guessed it would be kind of a sword forensics thing. Maybe someone recognizes a famous sword in someone’s hand and has to learn of its history to identify the person or solve some mystery about them. It could also just be Jason Bourne with swords, which I would also be down for. It’s closer to the first option. It’s sort of about a sword causing a mistaken identity. When two men come into the town of Guancheng carrying swords of an unusual design they are mistaken for Japanese pirates, causing a citywide ruckus. (read the rest of this shit…)