Thursday, 12 February 2015

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (4 Stars)

This is a film with a chaotic plot that's difficult to keep track of, but the stunning cinematography and visual effects make up for it. It was filmed in 3D, and even though I watched it in 2D today I could see how many scenes were set up with 3D in mind. This starts with the opening scene, in which the camera flies through a dockyard between ships and through their rigging.

Now let's see if I can describe the plot of the film adequately. There was so much going on that I might easily forget something. The film takes place in the time of the Ming Dynasty. The Emperor is self-centred and corrupt, so the court's eunuchs have set themselves up as the de facto rulers. There are two factions of eunuchs, the East Bureau and the West Bureau. The rebel Zhao Huai'an (Jet Li) kills the leader of the East Bureau in order to prevent unjust executions. Hu Yuatian, the leader of the West Bureau, offers to hunt for Zhao, but before he can begin he's called to the palace by the Emperor's concubine. The Emperor has got four of the maids pregnant. His concubine ordered their execution, but one of them, Su Huirong, has fled, and Hu is ordered to hunt for her. When he finds her she is saved by a female warrior impersonating Zhao. The two of them head south and take refuge in Dragon's Gate inn, followed both by Hu and the real Zhao.

The inn keepers are really bandits who serve their guests the flesh of people who have been killed in their inn. New guests in the inn are a group of tartars with a beautiful female leader who are searching for the lost kingdom of Xixia, which is reputed to be buried below the inn. A sandstorm is coming, and a couple arrive, one of whom looks identical to the Emperor. As all the groups take refuge in the inn, they begin to plot and battle against one another.

Did I get all that right? As I said, it was difficult to keep up. Just about everyone in the inn, including the emperor-lookalike and his lover, are skilled fighters, so there is no lack of action. Things go over the top when Zhao battles Hu while the two are being spun through the air by a tornado. It's all total chaos, but the film is still somehow fascinating. I wish I could have seen it in the cinema in 3D. I think it would have been worth it.

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