Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
From master visualist Tsui Hark we have 'The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate', and if you've seen a couple of Tsui Hark's film's from his lengthy and insanely successful film career, then you know my man is big on action, can paint a picture on film… or digital… as well as anybody ever, and most of the time he allows the story he's trying to tell go wherever the heck it wants to.  It's comforting to know that after a career spanning four decades that some things never change.

We're somewhere in China, it's back in the day, and as per usual political strife abounds.  Admittedly most of my knowledge of ancient China comes from watching kung fu movies… hanging my head in shame… but political unrest was almost always the order of the day back then.  In this alternate reality we learn that the emperor is allowing his kingdom to be policed by two oppressively brutal forces, the East Bureau and the West Bureau.  On this particular day an East Bureau chief, always some eunuch, is about to execute some rebels for being all rebellious and stuff, but not so fast my friends because he's about to meet Zhou Hahn (Jet Li) and his amazing martial arts skills.  I mean the eunuch ain't bad, but seriously… it was over at hello.

It appears this type of shameful defeat is typical for the East Bureau which is why the upstart West Bureau is taking charge, led by the extremely lethal eunuch Yu Huatian (Chen Kun) who has dispatched one of his chief eunuch's on a simple mission, on behest of the emperors number one concubine, to find a wayward maid (Mavis Fan) who has gotten herself knocked up.  If I'm not mistaken there's a chance that this maid could've possibly been knocked up by the emperor, which is why she has to die, but it is unlikely. 
Back to the FCU
Let Chris know how Wrong He Is
Don't Be Square...
Like Totally Twisted Flix!

Fortunately this maid was saved by the lovelorn swordswoman Li Yanquiu (Zhou Xun) who will continue to lookout for this poor maiden while praying that her one true love, Zhou Hahn, makes it back to her arms.  Whatever.

Eventually, everybody in this movie, and more characters all descend upon this dilapidated inn that's located in the middle of nowhere with a crazy sandstorm looming.  The evil eunuch Yu Huatian is there, along with a gaggle of his fellow eunuch capos and their men all looking for the wayward maid.   The maid and Li Yanquiu are there, though I can't rightly remember why and Zhou Hahn is there looking to finally end the terror of the West Bureau.  Also there are some treasure hunters including some barbarian queen (Gwen Lun-mei) and her men, another lethal swordswoman (Li Luchun) and her right hand man Broken Wind, who by chance happens to be the spitting image of evil eunuch Yu Huatian.  The ultimate goal of these treasure hunters is to find the lost city of gold and get rich.  Or die trying.

More stuff happens… I mean a lot of stuff happens, mostly incessant chatter, but ultimately it is going to boil down to misdirection, sleight of hand, betrayal and mad kung fu action.  Finally.  And despite the fact I miss real live humans on wires risking their lives, replaced here by dodgy CGI, it was still mostly worth it. 

Tsui Hark's 'The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate' runs a little over two hours long and its two hours that at the same time feels way too long, and then just not long enough.  I know, right?  The reasons for this are pretty simple… kung fu action good, even the fakey looking CGI scraps... incessant chatter bad.  There are so many characters in this movie and so much going on and so much external stimuli being thrown at the audience that is a little difficult to get your bearings as to what exactly is going on.  It also seems that this film is really banking on the fact that you've seen 'The Dragon Inn', which this is supposed to be a sequel to.  The thing is while the events of 'The Dragon Inn' occurred for the characters in our film a couple of months ago, they occurred to the audience back in 1992.  I think I saw 'The Dragon Inn' but heck if I remember anything about it.  By the time everybody makes it to the Inn, the movie stalls out quite a bit as we have to figure out who is who, what is what, who's doing what to whom and who's up to what.  It was tedious.  At best.

Finally the action fires back up and the movie gets good again.  Some of this action is based on a series of events that still has me a little confused as to how they got where they are, but its good action nonetheless.  I mean it's crazy action.  It's completely bananas type action.  When a pair of characters have a 'Beat it' type face off, chained together in the middle of a tornado, that's crazy.  Then watching them fight in Dorothy's house from The Wizard of Oz in the same tornado is even crazier. 

The performances were solid, particularly Chen Kun in both his roles in this film, especially considering how diametrically opposed the two characters he was playing were, all of the ladies were lovely and lethal, and Jet Li did a fine job anchoring it all down. 

'The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate' is almost a must see simply because it's Tsui Hark back to doing what Tsui Hark does best, crafting crazy action amidst a wacky, borderline incoherent, overly confusing storyline, and with his latest film he proves once again that he is one of the few film director's that can almost get away with this.
Don't Be Square... Like Totally Twisted Flix!
Real Time Web