Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 21st, 2017
BluRay released: April 11th, 2017
Approximate running times: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Stereo Mandarin, DTS-HD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
Sword Master was directed by Tung-Shing Yee who’s other notable films as a director include, The Lunatics, Shinjuku Incident, Triple Tap and The Great Magician. Key collaborators on Sword Master include, cinematographer Chi-Ying Chan (Tokyo Raiders, Blade of Kings), composer Peter Kam (Kung Fu Killer) and co-screenwriter / producer Hark Tsui (The Killer, Once Upon a Time in China). The screenplay for this film was adapted from a novel titled The Third Master’s Sword written by Xiong Yaohua under his pen name Gu Long. This novel had previous by adapted by the Shaw Brothers and released under the title Death Duel.
The film narrative primarily follows two characters. The first of these two characters is Yen Shih-San, a cold-blooded swordsman whose main quest is to defeat all swordsman who stand in his way of becoming the best swordsman in the marital world. The second of these two characters is Hsieh Shao-Feng, a swordsman who has faked his own death and now travels the world as peasant under the alias Ah Chi.
The objectives of these two characters could not be further apart. And when Yen Shih-San learns that his greatest rival Yen Shih-San has passed away. He abandons his original quest since there is no longer anyone who can challenge him. This also leads to this character reexamining his life and when he is told he does not have much longer to live. He then sets out to make arrangements for this death.
Then there is Hsieh Shao-Feng who left his life of privilege and the woman he loved, because these things no longer held the same value they once did. Wanting to find the things in life that make you feel truly alive, he sets out on a journey where he lives like a peasant. And while he travels from town to town he tries to keep a low profile. Until one day when he defends the honor of a prostitute and because of his chivalry, this event puts his secret in jeopardy.
Along the way though these two rivals’ paths intersect. This does not lead to them picking up where they previous had left off. And knowing that his fate will mean the end of his fighting technique, Yen Shih-San ensures that this does not happen by teaching his fighting technique to Ah Chi.
The film’s final act features a showdown between Hsieh Shao-Feng’s clan and Princess Hsiao Li, the woman he once loved. Of course, this film would finally come full circle and it ends with a duel between Hsieh Shao-Feng and Yen Shih-San.
From a production stand point, there is no an area where this film does not excel. The visuals are rock solid throughout and when it comes to the fight scenes, they deliver in spades. The narrative is well constructed and pacing is never an issue as key moments are given just the right amount of time to resonate. The main characters are defined and their motivations are never in doubt.
Performance wise the entire cast are very good in their respective roles, especially this film’s two leads Kenny Lin (Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon) in role of Hsieh Shao-Feng / Ah Chi and Peter Ho (The Monkey King) in the role of Yen Shih-San. Other notable performances include, Yiyan Jiang (The Four) in the role of Mu-Yung Chiu-Ti, the young woman from the brothel that Yen Shih-San falls in love with and Mengjie Jiang in the role of the obsessed other woman Princess Hsiao Li.
Sword Master comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This transfer does a great job retaining this film’s intended look. Details look sharp and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with four audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Mandarin, a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Mandarin, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in English. Both of the DTS-HD mixes are in great shape. Dialog is clear and everything is balanced. Range and depth wise both audio mixes sound robust when they need too and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (1 minute 32 seconds, in Mandarin with English subtitles) and a brief “Making of” segment titled Master the Sword (1 minute 27 seconds, in Mandarin with English subtitles).
Other extras include trailers for Kung Fu Yoga, Monkey King 2 and Call of Heroes.
Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo. Overall Sword Master gets a solid audio / video presentation from Well Go USA.