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刀劍įŽ‘ (1994)
The Three Swordsmen

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 05/02/2008

The Three Swordsmen would, at least on the surface, seem to have a lot of promise, with a solid cast and crew. However, from the first scene, where a character gives some lengthy exposition that's supposed to set up the story, but ends up making not one lick of sense, should tell the viewer right away that this is definitely not among the top tier of wu xia films.

As far as I can surmise, there is supposed to be a tournament between the region's top swordsmen. But after one of them, Sam Siu (Andy Lau), is framed for murder and flees, the other two, Ming (Brigitte Lin, playing a male role complete with some atrocious dubbing of her voice) and Dao (Elvis Tsui), head off to find him.

Or something to that effect. There are just way too many characters and sub-plots thrown in, and making heads or tails of the proceedings is an exercise in futility. Matters aren't helped any by the poor subtitles on the Universe DVD, which are obscured by the actor's white outfits for much of the time, and pretty much incomprehensible even when they're readable.

Normally, the action scenes could save a film like this, and with Tony Leung Siu-Hung and Yuen Bun (two of the more under-rated action directors) at the helm, you might be right. The key word there is "might".

The fights are extremely silly stuff where sleeves can lop off limbs and people just generally bounce around for seemingly no rhyme or reason. Even putting aside the absurdity of the brawls (which are exaggerated even by wu xia standards) the editing is so haphazard that it's hard to tell exactly what the hell is going on.

Ultimately, even though The Three Swordsmen is a sub-par effort, it is salvaged somewhat via the personality of the leads. No one is going to mistake this movie for their best work, but they really seem to be trying, which at least makes the viewer somewhat interested to see their fate. It's too bad, though, that the ultimate payoff for the viewer investing ninety minutes of their time really isn't worth the effort.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 03/22/2008

“The Three Swordsmen” is a bit past the halfway point when one of Wham Dao's men tells him "I don't understand". This is shared by most of the audience since who is doing what to whom and why gets more difficult to figure out as the film progresses--or at least unspools since progress some type of coherent forward motion. The movie begins with some very lengthy exposition, an announcer on stage telling an unruly crowd what has happened so far and why they are all there—the people in the crowd show their displeasure by throwing flowers. The announcement goes on for much too long and is too detailed leading one to think, “Why didn't they just film what he is talking about--it sounds pretty exciting.”

There are some decent stunts although nothing amazing. It isn't that we have seen all the stunts before--anyone who has watched a few hundred (or a few thousand) Hong Kong movies has seen everything before. The swordplay, exploding ninjas, flying decapitations and other effects work if they occur in the context of a movie with a plot we can follow and characters that interest us. Then they can be fresh and exciting because people we care about are doing them. Without that connection it is just another swordplay movie--which this isn't. Given the star power and, at least apparently, the money spent on sets and costumes, "The Three Swordsmen" is a crashing failure.

Several plot lines begin only to be abandoned. The most noticeable involves prisoners encased in blocks of ice who are being transported to a desolate wasteland and who must be rescued—either before the ice melts or before they arrive at the destination. We never find out which it is because one the scene is set with the huge frozen blocks in place on a wagon, cushioned with straw and ready to move, it is never seen or even mentioned again. And just about everything else is mentioned—over and over. There is some sword fighting but much more talk about revenge, honor and duplicity than there is action in “The Three Swordsmen”. It may be that this movie is classified as a comedy due to these constant interruptions to explain what we don’t get to see—although they aren’t funny just annoying.

When Siu Sam-Siu is pursued by the forces of law and order they are told to use the “Super Arrow” against him. It sounds like quite a weapon but we will never know since that is the only time it is mentioned. One seemingly minor but very telling slip is an extreme close-up of Siu Sam-Siu’s left hand he holds Butterfly’s hand to comfort her. Andy Lau’s hand is uniformly tanned except for white band on ring finger where the actor (apparently) wears his wedding ring. It is the kind of minor but flaw that slips though in just about every movie that is released but here it is part of the lack of care and general sloppiness that characterizes “The Three Swordsmen” and one is much less forgiving. Wedding bands aside, Andy Lau comes across as much too modern and insouciant, always ready with a knowing smirk to make sure the audience is in on the joke. This is in jarring contrast to Brigitte Lin and Elvis Tsui who play their parts straight. Since all three are talented artists with long experience and demonstrated commitment to their work it must be assumed that they were directed to act as if they were in different movies from each other.

On the plus side, both Yu Li and Tung Wai-Wai are extremely attractive young actresses who acquit themselves well. Some followers of Ming Kim are dressed in very campy costumes—they seem to be slave laborers whose clothing is made of straw and who work around a number of braziers with open flames. It was spectacularly weird looking and made one think much more about safety on the set than the content of the movie. This non-arboreal druid looking people didn’t have any other function. They didn’t rise up against their oppressors or rally around Ming Kim’s cause or do much of anything else other than keep from setting their costumes afire.

Not recommended

Reviewer Score: 2

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 08/23/2007
Summary: messy swords...

hmm, picked this dvd up for next to nothing in hong kong and, after reading some reviews, i wasn't expecting much from it. the fact that it's an old universe disc, with burnt-in (chinese and english) subs wasn't a good start; the fact that the translation is very poor, combined with there being a ton of almost incomprehensible exposition at the start of the film and the andy lau's character is dressed in white, meaning it is almost impossible to read the subs when he is on-screen, does not help.

there seems to be some kind of tournament scheduled, where siu sam-siu (andy lau), ming kim (brigitte lin) and another fighter are set to compete for the title of the best swordsman. unfortunately, someone disguised as siu has killed the third swordsman and now wham dao (elvis tsui) has been charged with tracking down siu and killing him. siu escapes the clutched of wham, teaming up with an old flame, butterfly (tung wai-wai), and setting off to clear his name, running into an escaped swordsman, two princesses from the mountains and various other people who may, or may not, be involved in the plot to frame him...

although, i may be completely wrong about this...

well, this is a pretty poor affair. andy lau, brigitte lin (in one of her, playing a man with a gruff voice dubbed over her dialogue) and elvis tsui fail to raise this unintelligible mess to the heady heights of average, but i can't say that it's their fault. i can only assume that a better translation would enhance this film, but i can't imagine that it would make it into a film that one might say is good.

still, despite some hokey, blurred, slow-mo, swiftly edited fight sequences, there are a few moments of quite enjoyable wu xia silliness to be enjoyed. i was always a fan of seeing people explode or turn to a cloud of dust, when struck with a sword, and there's a decent amount of such behaviour here. there's also plenty of zipping through the air, some nice 'hair-action' and a couple of moments of reasonable swordplay.

oh, and it also lifts / steals, at least, three tracks from the 'akira' soundtrack...

it is mildly entertaining, because of its convoluted nature and wu xia trappings, but it is, by no means, good.

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 02/15/2006

This crazy movie showed up at the now defunct Music Palace in New York City as the bottom half of several double bills in the middle and late 90's. The subtitles were mostly unreadable and the movie seemed quite confusing to me but I must say that the Chinese folks in the audience always really enjoyed themselves with cheering and applause. Lots of flying people and goofy sword stances abound in what is really a poor imitation of Tsui Hark's Swordsman films. You just can't say anything bad about Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, or the always fabulous Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong.


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 04/02/2005
Summary: What have they DONE!

There are so many problems with this movie,
1) the white subtitles i missed roughly 10 minutes of dialogue because too many people were earing white
2) i couldnt follow the story but i doubt that it had anything to do with missing the subtitles,
3) editing or script problems or both, just so obvious but which one is more at fault?
4) i was confused which sides people were on, And Bridgette Lin having a mans voice, what the hell for??

In other words dont watch this, you will only become frustatrated!!


Reviewer Score: 2

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 03/30/2003
Summary: Garbage

Superb fight scenes can't save this major failure. The plot is all over the place. It's like "What? Huh? Where - hey, who?" And sure enough, it's over before we get a clue. This is without a doubt Brigitte Lin's worse effort of the entire decade, although this isn't a vehicle for her. She didn't appear until movie was half over.

It pains me to say this, but THREE SWORDSMEN is even worse than Butterfly Sword.


Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Wu'xiaBadger
Date: 01/14/2003
Summary: Plot? Who needs a plot?

I thought everyone was a little hard on this flick. Yeah, the story is ridiculously muddled and confusing; and sure, Andy and Brigitte have done much better movies. But I thought it had its moments, and was a fair action picture. The always capable Elvis Tsui got more screentime then usual, and Lau was in top form as always. Brigitte as a man was a little tougher to swallow, but that aside, I enjoyed it. (5 of 10)

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 03/17/2002
Summary: First half better than the 2nd

This could have been a better film. But it is not! Andy Lau and the girl(?) are hilarious in the scene where they eat together..quite charming..and the "ice scene" is pretty good..but then it stops with any romance or chivalry to speak of. Even Brigitte Lin can't save this film..(she's hardly in the movie for the first 30 minutes or so)Some cool scenes of hard to follow wire flying ensue but it just doesn't really work by the last frame.Too bad, as all the lead actors were there..just not used to their full potential. Glad I have this because of my Brigitte collection..otherwise go see "Deadful Melody" which has mixed reviews, but is a lot more interesting at least.

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 07/23/2001
Summary: Mixed bag

I agree with most of the criticisms which the other reviewers mentioned. However, this film does have a few things going for it.

Groovy music, for instance. This is YET ANOTHER film for which there seems to be no soundtrack released. SHAME !

And, as movies are a largely visual experience, the photography is simply gorgeous. Colourful, fast moving, pacy. A treat for the eye.

But this doesn't add up to a great movie. I watched this one back to back with HANDSOME SIBLINGS. There are quite some parallels. Same lead actors and quite a few of the same plot points, for instance. But HS is much much better.

If you, like me, absolutely adore wu'xia (flying people) films which are terrific eye candy, then you shouldn't miss this film. But that still don't make it one of the greats.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: ElectraWoman
Date: 01/21/2001
Summary: 1.5/10-BAD film

Yes, there IS ice in this film. It's the part where Andy Lau is saving that chick (what's-her-name) and Lau and someone else is fighting. They fall into an ice-holding factory/building and become trapped. Just watch carefully; this appears in around the first third of the film. It's after the chick impersonates Lau to lead the army away from him, I hope that helps.

As for prisoners and the island...I'm not sure about that. I didn't get very far :)

Anyways the first time I got this film, the VCD was blank. In hindsight, that was a blessing. When I finally got to watch it (I brought another VCD) I gave up trying to decipher the storyline after about five minutes, and stopped watching about half an hour in. This is a very poor attempt at an epic fantasy film, and Brigette Lin as a man? Come on!

Reviewed by: natty
Date: 12/29/2000
Summary: Damn what happenned to the prisoners and the ice?

On buying this movie i expected to get some satisfaction.Thanx to taiseng for their misleading review or(maybe i bought the wrong tape)Actually i watched the movie twice thinking i've missed some parts but to say the truth i
never saw no prisoners, no island and also no ice .Hey if you have watched this movie can you comment on it. Maybe i was hallucinating.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

Brigitte Lin Andy Lau and Lui Leung Wai are 3 champion swordsmen ordered by the Emperor to transport two prisoners locked in crates of ice to a deserted land. The catch is to get the prisoners there before the ice melts!

[Reviewed by Tai Seng Catalog]

Reviewed by: battlemonkey
Date: 12/21/1999

I have to agree. Brigette Lin is one of my favorite actors, but this was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Never has slow-motion been used in so stupid a way (blurry slo-mo shots of cloth flying by are supposed to pass for BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR-esque action scenes). Pathetic garbage.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

An action movie set in the kung fu worlds of ancient China. Highlighted by exciting Samurai swordplay and grand, heroic deeds.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

I was thoroughly unimpressed. This film contained everything I hate about Hong Kong kung fu cinema without any of what I crave. First off, though the description of the film that I'd read previous to seeing praised the martial arts scenes highly, I was bored. Flying people and more flying people. Big deal. There was no demonstration of anything that looked remotely like a sword form. Just a lot of swinging of plastic blades. The story was overly convoluted. At first, it held my interest focusing on a love story between Siu Sam Siu and Miss Butterfly, but as soon as the focus on that aspect of the story was gone so was my attention. Too many characters. Too many flying people. A very loose story. Thumbs down.

[Reviewed by Anonymous]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Now, on the box that this movie came in, it mentioned two prisoners that had to be transported in blocks of ice to a deserted island. Not only did I not see any ice, I didn't see an island or the prisoners. Maybe I just missed it, and if I did, let me know. This film relies too much on special directorial tricks rather than solid kung fu to move fight scenes along. Too many close-ups, editing cuts that come too quickly, and not enough shots of widescreen fighting action. It's an interesting film, and worth the time, but there is better stuff out there.

[Reviewed by Dale Whitehouse]