Today: February 28, 2024
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Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate

By – Scott Bradley – Tsui Hark and Jet Li – for many fans of the martial arts epic, these names hold a special place

By – Scott Bradley

Tsui
Hark and Jet Li – for many fans of the martial arts epic, these names hold a
special place
, mostly thanks to the Once Upon A Time In China series and
1992’s New Dragon Gate Inn, which
reinvigorated the genre at the time. Twenty years later, the pair have reunited
for the latest installment of the Dragon
Gate
saga, Flying Swords
Of Dragon Gate,
this
time with more spectacle, a huge cast of characters and the added excitement of
3D, recruiting many from the Avatar effects theme to bring Hark’s vision to
life. But was it worth the wait?

For starters, although this has been publicised as
another star vehicle for Li, his character takes equal place in the narrative
with about a dozen others in this tale of corruption amongst warring clans,
assassins attempting to rid the good folk of evil eunuchs, an escaped pregnant
servant girl on the run and the titular inn, built above a buried lost city and
those who have gathered to find it.

In amongst all the various serious narrative threads
and historical/political intrigue, Hark finds time, as always, for pure farce,
this time using the old trusted mistaken identity subplot with Chun King’s
simple but well-meaning peasant bearing more than a passing resemblance to an effeminate
baddie. In between all the plot-heavy dialogue however are some truly
spectacular action sequences, especially the opening sequence featuring Gordon Lui and not just flying swords
but daggers, furniture and anything else that comes to hand. The cinematography
is spectacular throughout, with gorgeous vistas and clever viewpoints, yet the
fight sequences themselves feel a little dated, particularly with the obvious
wirework sometimes looking out of place among the digital trickery surrounding
it.

One interesting device is the film’s use of subtitles,
employing a similar device to the English language version of Timur Bekmambetov‘s Night Watch, with subtitled dialogue in
action sequences and at strategic points being used to highlight the film’s 3D
imagery, which works very well in some points but distracts from following the
convoluted storyline in others.

Overall, Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate delivers the goods
on all levels, though those who like to know what’s going on at all times may
walk out later with rather confused heads. But for sheer spectacle, Hark’s still got what it takes.

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