Reign of Assassins (2010)
Reviewed by: pjshimmer on 2012-02-18
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