Director: Tsui Hark
Cast: Jet Li, Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Kwai Lun – mei and Li Yu – chun
Spoiler Warning: Minimal.
Continuing his theme in Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame last year, Tsui Hark in The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate tells us one simple truth: power corrupts and perishes while trust and love, the Wuxia values, last.
In contrast to the all too realistic fighting in Ip Man, you’ll see swords, flying daggers, chains and sharp silk lines whirling in the air. As Wuxia master, Chow Wai – on (Jet Li) elegantly fights with sword, while the devious Eunuch Yu Hua – tian (Chen Kun) hides his sword under his flipping robe.
Still the beautiful Tartars Princess (Kwai Lun-mei) close – fights with a style akin to the Mongolian wrestling and also fights with a crescent that again tries to engage enemies as closely possible. Further, Gu Shaotang (Li Yu – chun) threw daggers that fly in a predictably unpredictable course.
All these are done under the 3D effect which is not great, but acceptable. The 3D is still crude and undeveloped and it can hardly accomodate all the spinning and swirling of weapons and people. Nevertheless it does give some eye – opening surprises, particularly when Chow broke through the flag to kill the Eunuch at the opening.
Despite the martial art and the 3D effect, the plot is so weak that it renders all the characters as two – dimensional flat sheets. We never really know what has happened in the love story between Chow and Ling Yan – qiu (Zhou Xun), nor do we know how others have come together for the treasure hunt.
Fortunately this did not stop Chen Kun playing the scheming Eunuch on one hand, and the blissful Wind Blade, on the other. The parts where Chen imitated the Eunuch to fool other people has added much lively element in the middle of the movie. Kwai has also unusually plays well the passion of the Tartars people.
Tsui interestingly put the very traditional Wuxia music, Dagger Society Prelude (小刀會序曲), at the opening and closing scenes, perhaps at a tribute to old Wuxia movies.
The movie ends with the Eunuch, symbolizing lust for power and wealth, buried deep in the sand, while Chow has taken his turn to find his love, Ling, till the end of the world. In the world of Wuxia, love is perennial.