The Lost Bladesman
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 8 May 2011
Released in New Zealand at the same time as its native Hong Kong and China, this latest in a long line of epic historical adventures is less flashy and more grown up and sensible than many of its predecessors.
The Lost Bladesman is a generic title, but the film’s protagonist, Guan Yun Chang, is one of the greatest heroes in Chinese history, his exploits well-known to this day. It is said he is equally heralded by the police (Guan’s statue appears outside many Chinese police stations) as by the criminal fraternity. His considerable reputation thus places high expectations on this movie.
Set in the time of the Three Kingdoms (c. 200 AD), Guan Yu (Ip Man’s Donnie Yen, whose extraordinary talent in martial arts needs neither wire-work nor stuntmen) is the greatest warrior in the land. Though fighting on the side of the ambitious warlord Cao Cao (Wen Jiang), Guan Yu’s internal conflict lies in his sworn allegiance to one of Cao Cao’s opponents, and his secret love for that man’s concubine. He is the epitome of honour to the last.
From the makers of the superb Infernal Affairs trilogy, the action adventure and tortured love story are told seriously and without frills, and while the narrative is at times dense and challenging to the non-Chinese speaker, those raised on tales of Guan Yu’s exploits should find it rewarding.