Reviewed by: danton
Ann Hui's 2-part adaptation of Jin Yong's novel, released in 1987, is a beautifully filmed movie that tries to cover all the important story elements from the book and in doing so often sacrifices narrative clarity. If you haven't read the book, you're confronted with a large number of characters that receive little or no introduction, as well as significant jumps in the plot, making it at first somewhat difficult to understand what is happening. The film is set during the realm of Qing emperor Qian Long and depicts the struggle of the Ming restoration forces led by the Red Flower society. Centered around the leader of the resistance and the emperor himself, the story presents political intrigue and martial arts prowess in an epic adventure setting where characters have conflicting loyalties and are torn between ethnic rivalries (Han vs Manchu), dynastic ambitions, familiy bonds, the good of the people, and romantic desires.
Ann Hui presents all this in a slightly restrained manner, often slowing down the pace for more poetic interludes and with none of the frenetic energy, over the top emotions and hyperkinetic action choreography that would characterize the later swordplay movies of the early nineties. The style of storytelling used here feels much closer to an earlier era dominated by the likes of King Hu, and while the action choreography is competent, it does feel kind of dated compared to those later films a la Swordsman. The sparse use of music adds to this restrained, more quiet and atmospheric approach, and the complete absence of any comic relief further plays into the stylistic cohesiveness. The end product feels somewhat somber and overly serious at times, yet captures Jin Yong's original vision much more closely than any other movie adaptation of his books that I have seen.
On the whole, I would recommend the film to anyone interested in the genre as a refreshing stylistic alternative to the early 90s wuxia films.
Reviewed by: hkcinema
A serious adaptation of a Jin Yong story, filmed in China.Sequel is called "Princess Fragrance". About the Manchu Emperor and his brother, Chen Jialo, who is Mr. Chen of the Red Flower Society in Fong Sai Yuk. Visually different from the usual HK historical action film. More artsy.
[Reviewed by Anonymous]
Reviewed by: spinali
Rebels from the Red Flower society have unearthed disturbing information about the current Qing emperor (Da-Shi Chang) -- namely, that he was born Han, not Manchu -- and it's up to his unacknowledged brother (Zhang Duo Fu) to unite them against their evil conquerors. The martial arts action is okay, but nothing like the spectacular flying fu of the '90s; and the subtitles are accurate, taking away another source of fun in this uncommonly sincere action/historical saga.
Reviewer Score: 6
[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]