Having made the internationally successful Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs and its sequels (the first film later getting the Hollywood treatment by getting remade as The Departed), it is no surprise that the more successful their films became, the more money film studios were willing to give Felix Chong and Alan Mak to make bigger, more exciting films. However, just because a film has a bigger budget does not necessarily mean the story is worthy of the money backing it.
Set in Ancient China during a time of great turmoil, Guan Yu (Donnie Yen), considered by many the greatest warrior in the land and is beloved by all the people, though he is reluctant to believe the hype around him, is enlisted by the Emperor’s General Cao Cao (Wen Jiang) to lead the battle against the emperor’s enemy Liu Bei (Alex Fong). However, Guan is good friends with Liu Bei, immediately making him not want to get involved in their conflict. So Cao Cao then kidnaps Guan’s love Gi Lan (Sun Li) and threatens to kill her if Guan does not do their bidding. Even after invading his friend’s land and triumphing over them, Cao Cao now considers Guan to be a great threat to them, so Guan is on the run from Cao Cao’s murderous forces that are now after him.
Though the above plot description sounds solid enough, do not let that fool you. The plot languishes throughout the whole film, and it is easy to start daydreaming because the “plot structure” does not exist, and when you do snap back to reality, you find it hard to get back into the film as you do not know what is going on or who is fighting who or why. Perhaps there is more to the film’s title than it appears, as the audience will be just as lost as the titular Lost Bladesman is when trying to watch this film. The characters are all dull and you frankly just do not care about their struggle and just want them to all kill one another already so the movie will end sooner.
Though the script lacks, well, an interesting storyline, the technical side of things is clearly where all the money went. The stylised fight scenes are well choreographed, though the subtle hint of gore makes it seem like there will be blood and guts flying by the end of the film, though this unfortunately does not happen. The sets are convincing and lovely to look at and kind of make you want to go to China for a holiday to take a look at the real palaces from this era. One tender scene between Guan and Gi only works because of the lovely musical score played in the background, and the music during the action scenes makes it seem like they will be more exciting than what they really are. But despite these technical marvels, it still does not make The Lost Bladesman interesting enough to watch and you will be looking at your watch half of the time counting down to the film’s finishing time.
Originally published at meapcareers.com.au on Tuesday 26 April 2011