Directed by Stanley Tong. Starring Jet Li, Brigitte Lin. (1992)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 18, 1993
I have yet to see Tsui Hark's original Swordsman film, but judging from this sequel, I may not want to. Produced by Hong Kong film maven Hark and directed by Stanley Tong, Swordsman II falls into the category of Chinese sword & sorcery films that assault the viewer with low-budget gore, contrived and inexplicable plot twists, and scenery-chewing actors. Jet Li, who was so good as Master Wong Fey-Hong in both Once Upon a Time in China and its sequel, is cast here as a frequently drunken swordfighter who allies himself with a group of monks -- the Sun Moon Sect -- in order to help them regain their stolen magical scrolls. Up against the tipsy, well-intentioned swordsman is the psychotic ex-Sun Moon Sect member Fong, who is currently trying to achieve global domination (or something to that effect) by using the stolen scrolls to transform himself into -- gasp! -- a woman. Talk about striking a blow for sexual equality. Li's swordsman is further frustrated by his growing attraction to this hermaphrodite-in-transit who would like nothing better than to remove him from the picture altogether. Add to this odd little plot a heady mix of standard issue flying scenes and decapitations (PETA members be advised: Swordsman II contains a gruesome scene of equine dismemberment that may shock you), and you have an outlandishly colorful, over-the-top melange of arcane Chinese sorcery and gleeful violence. Sort of a La Cage aux Folles meets Wizards. Sort of. The trouble here is not how chaotic the film is, but instead how little of it seems to hold together. Repeated assaults by flying duelists is only original for so long, and if you've seen many Chinese actioners, you should know by now how dull it can all become. Both Jet Li and producer Hark are top notch Hong Kong film people. It's just too bad they couldn't seem to get it together this time out.