Swordsman II (1992)

Posted in Reviews by - November 12, 2015
Swordsman II (1992)

Tsui Hark overhauled his initial concept for this wuxia franchise following the difficulties making the first Swordsman film. Instead, he follows up with a hyperactive sequel complete with a new cast and crew encouraged by the overwhelming success of Once Upon a Time in China. Tsui borrows many of the players from that franchise for this movie, including Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan and Yen Shi-kwan. He even recruits wire fu auteur Tony Ching Siu-tung to direct and the results are majestically irreverent, even by Tony Ching’s esoteric standards (he did, after all, make A Chinese Ghost Story).

Ling and Kiddo return (now played by Jet Li and Michelle Reis) to seek solace with their remaining friends in the Sun Moon sect. However, a new sect leader has set his heart on world domination. The supernatural Asia the Invincible (Brigitte Lin in another iconic role) is a vulnerable hermaphrodite with black magic powers who has secured the Sacred Scroll and castrated himself in order to achieve a mythical, wizard-like supremacy. Asia’s sexuality is non-specific, and she loves both her concubine and – after a jolly in a lake – the cheerful Ling, who finds himself conflicted between his two favourite girls, Ying (Rosamund Kwan) and Kiddo, as well as Asia.

That’s a bit heavy for a swashbuckler, so luckily the action rivals the story on the insanity meter. Ninja appear and travel through the air on giant Shurikan stars. Wildly imaginative sword fights take place in full flight via the forces of telekinesis. In one great scene, Blue Phoenix (Fennie Yuen) catapults hidden snakes from her sleeves as ninja randomly explode. Tony Ching’s heady mix of stark lighting and wild movement is almost too disorientating, which is the sort of critique you can label at most of Tsui Hark’s more hair-brained films. It’s the towering performance from the enigmatic Brigitte Lin which helps to keep everything grounded, playing the first of her gender-bending characters in a career-defining performance. Sensual, lethal (her victims explode into pools of blood) yet strangely sensitive, this film cemented her as one of Hong Kong’s most provocative actors.

AKA: China Swordsman; The Legend of the Swordsman; Swordsman 2

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