Reign of Assassins (2010)

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 04/06/2015
Summary: Muddled

Perhaps I was spoilt, in that I watched Tsui Hark’s stunning Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate immediately before Reign Of Assassins. These two visually glorious wuxia screened back to back on SBS TV.

ROA suffers very much from the comparison. Where the other reviewers highly praise ROA, I see a mess. While I agree that the action set pieces are spectacular, they are still no match for Hark’s tectonic brilliance. The familiar story, of a former hero living a normal life who is called upon to become a hero again, should have worked well.

Unfortunately, the sequencing of the story is simply atrocious. Things start off okay. The opening scenes jump around from action to plot development which, while rather confusing, move along at a fair pace overall. Then, incredibly, the story abruptly changes to about twenty minutes of light comedy and romance. The wooing of Michelle’s character would have made a charming light romance, but for it to be told in one unbearably long and slow block was *the* critical pacing error in ROA.

Put simply, it stops the story dead in its whirling tracks. True, the bank holdup scene which follows is a blast, but it is too late.

What could have saved ROA ? Intercutting a few action sequences in with the wooing super-scene would certainly have helped, but I can’t be sure of by how much.

I hadn’t read the credits before watching ROA, so I was racking my brain for who was this actress who looked like a young Michelle Yeoh. I was amazed to find that it was indeed Michelle. Hasn’t lost her looks, and of course she is compelling to watch, but her mighty presence was not enough.

I have not rated this movie, as I lost interest about half-way through, for reasons explained. But clearly, I was unimpressed.

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 02/18/2012
Summary: A breath of fresh air to wuxia; unique and exciting

I've seen just about every wuxia film made between 1965 and 2000 that I could get my hands on. However, I've not kept up since 2000. I've yet to see some of the big releases such as The Warlords (2007) and Detective Dee (2010). Having made this disclaimer, let me explain why I enjoyed Reign of Assassins.

I think this is one of the best wuxia movies ever made. It's a breath of fresh air in a well-established genre. It's unique and exciting. It kept my eyes glued to the screen the whole time.

It's not easy for a wuxia film to reinvigorate and/or innovate the tried-and-true (and tiring) genre. Reign of Assassins joins the small league of extraordinary films that have done so, including Ashes of Time (1994 - with its disjointed story and jarring cinematography), Blade (1995 - dark and edgy), and CTHD (1999 - beautiful photography and elevated the standards of flying scenes). Reign invigorates the genre by evoking the best of the past (the set and camera angles remind me of Shaw Bros movies of the late 70s and early 80s), giving us an exciting and cliche-free story, and telling the story in a non-traditional way.

Some great martial arts films follow the formula of Oscar-friendly filmmaking. An example is Fearless (2006). It's well made, but it doesn't offer anything new. Reign is great in a different way: rather than following a formula, it decided how it wanted to be. It's a mashup of different styles. I very much want to see more films with this quality, and I do realize most of them probably won't succeed, but that's how innovation comes about: by trying new things and taking risks. If we want to see more bold, innovative movies, then we need to support an innovation culture in filmmaking. We can start by embracing films that take risks for their effort--even if they don't succeed.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/15/2012
Summary: 9/10 - Highly enjoyable

Reign of Assassins is a wu xia film which at times evokes the stateliness of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and at others impresses with the unpredictable plotting of a Chor Yuen film. Michelle Yeoh plays Drizzle, a member of a fearsome band of assassins called Dark Stone, who wants to escape the martial world after receiving a dose of enlightenment from a Buddhist monk. She settles into a sedate life selling noodles, and enters into a romance with a quiet, simple courier. However, if we know one thing, it's that leaving the Jiang Hu is terribly difficult, and naturally Drizzle's past catches up with her. The film manages to squeeze a few surprises out of this plot framework though.

Production values are top notch, and the film ranks as first rate on pretty much every quality you might care to judge it by. Action scenes are decidedly on the fantastical side of the martial arts spectrum, and most comparable to those in Crouching Tiger. Acting is excellent, despite both leads being dubbed in Mandarin. Wang Xue-Qi is especially enjoyable as the main villain of the piece, but Michelle Yeoh and Jung Woo-Sung both deliver there roles with aplomb, and Barbie Hsu adds colour to her supporting role without drawing too many comparisons to Zhang Ziyi.

Looks good, sounds good, and apart from a few lulls the plot keeps things interesting throughout. Definitely worth a look!

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 07/26/2011

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 01/25/2011

Along with the well-made dramatic scenes, Reign of Assassins delivers its' fair share of high-flying swordsplay action that should delight long-time fans of Michelle Yeoh. Helmed by veteran action director Stephen Tung (who has worked on classics like A Better Tomorrow) the fight scenes definitely fall into the wire-fu camp, so if you're looking to something on the more realistic side of things, you probably should look elsewhere. But if you enjoy the style, you're going to find a lot to like here. Michelle looks great during the fight scenes, and seeing her perform here at this level is well worth the purchase of admission alone.

Reviewer Score: 7