Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 4th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 2008
Director: Jingle Ma
Writers: Po Chun Chan, Jingle Ma, Ka-Keung Ng, Sin Ling Yeung
Cast: Charlene Choi, Chun Wu, Ge Hu, Siu-Wong Fan, Shaun Tam, Lung Ti, Seli Xian, Xin Xin Xiong, Harlem Yu
BluRay released: May 7th, 2013
Approximate running time: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Cantonese
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
The Assassin’s Blade was co-written and directed by Jingle Ma, who’s other notable film’s include Tokyo Raiders and Mulan. Keys collaborators on The Assassin’s Blade include cinematographer Chi Ying Chan (Blade of Kings, The Lost Bladesman) and composer Tsang-Hei Chiu (Ordinary Heroes).
Though he not given any credit, an obvious inspiration for this film is William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet. Reportedly the film is also draws inspiration from a Chinese folklore tale about a doomed romance.
The plot revolves centers around a young woman named Zhu Yanzhi, who’s family is about to imprisoned by new oppressive regime. Not wanting to put his daughter in harm’s way, her father arranges for her to go to a well regarded martial arts school. To keep her identity a secret and more importantly have her treated as an equal by her peers, she disguises herself as a man. From their she falls in love with one of the instructors, a young man named Liang. As if pretending to be another gender was not an awkward way to start to a love affair. Things take a turn for the worse when one of Zhu Yanzhi’s childhood friends uses deception to take her away from the man she loves.
Content wise, Chinese cinema is very good at playing up melodrama and in regards to this film they serve it up in heaping helpings. As far as love stories go this film starts off on shaky ground, only to find its footing by its heartbreaking final act. In other areas the film does a superb job integrating comedy with the more tragic elements of the story at hand. With the scenes in which Zhu Yanzhi tries to conceal her femininity from her peers at the martial arts school, most notably Liang the man that she has fallen head over heels for.
When discussing Chinese cinema one area that has often been its bread and butter are its action set pieces. Unfortunately for anyone looking for action set pieces that will set their world on fire. They should look elsewhere, since the action set pieces in this film are merely serviceable.
Another area that often misses more than hits the mark are the performances from its cast. With the only performance leaving any lasting impression being Charlene Choi (The Twins Effect, Triple Tap) in the role of this film’s protagonist Zhu Yanzhi. Ultimately The Assassin’s Blade is middle of the road melodrama that tries to compensate for its short coming with its heavy handed use of style over substance.
The Assassin’s Blade comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Colors and flesh tones look accurate. Black levels look consistent, details look crisp and there are no problems with compression. Also it should be noted though there are many instances where the image looks bright and in these instances it looks like the intended look of the film.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Cantonese and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. Overall one would be hard pressed to find any faults in this audio mix, as dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust, when it needs too.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film and trailers for other titles also available from Well Go USA. Overall The Assassin’s Blade gets a strong audio / video presentation from Well Go USA.
Note: This film is also being released by Well Go USA on DVD.