Movie Review: The Lost Bladesman (2011)
It’s amazing that Chinese films are showing at my local mainstream cinemas these days. One such recent film is The Lost Bladesman, based on the life and times of legendary warrior Guan Yu from the awesome Romance of Three Kingdoms stories.
I’ve been a huge fan of Guan Yu since those Dynasty Warriors games on the Playstation, which are still being churned out these days. One of the missions in the game requires Guan Yu to escort his sworn brother’s wife/concubine(?) through five passes and requires him to slay six of Cao Cao’s generals on the way. That’s what this movie is essentially about.
Guan Yu is played by Hong Kong action hero and geniune martial arts expert Donnie Yen, who is a strange choice in some ways because he is nothing like Guan Yu physically (Guan Yu is supposed to be a giant dude with a red face but Yen is a tiny dude with a normal face). He demonstrates decent range as an actor, but of course it’s his fighting abilities that carry the film.
Speaking of action, the film has plenty of it. It can get a little crazy at times, but I suppose it’s fitting considering how much of a legend Guan Yu is supposed to be (so much so that he is regarded as a diety by some and idolised as one). Without giving away too much, the fight scenes often resembled a Dynasty Warriors game, which is pretty cool, I guess.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve seen so many of these new generation Asian martial arts films (since Crouching Tiger), but The Lost Bladesman doesn’t particularly stand out. I enjoyed the story and the action but on the whole it didn’t do a whole lot for me. The ‘five passes six generals’ story is only a very small part of Guan Yu’s legend and I was actually expecting to see a lot more of his other battles. Granted, it would have been impossible to tell his entire life story in a 107-minute film, but it felt like I wasn’t getting the full picture.
Nonetheless, fans of Asian martial arts films will appreciate many aspects of The Lost Bladesman. It’s beautifully shot, decently acted (Jian Wen, who plays Cao Cao, was a standout) and packed with well-choreographed action sequences. The dramatic elements didn’t resonate with me but I admit there was some potential.
3 stars out of 5
PS: I don’t understand the title. He was not lost at all.