“A tip-top cast, well-crafted script and punchy action capture the classic essence of the swordplay genre…” Rated 9 out of 10 – Derek Elley, Film Business Asia
UPDATE 10/7/2010: Found another good review from China Daily, “‘Assassins’ gives martial arts fresh face“; however I find it contains some information that could be considered spoilers and a good deal of writing errors, so I’ll just provide that review’s link and blurb here…
Born a decade after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, [swordplay] thriller “Reign of Assassins” – co-directed by John Woo and Su Chao-pin – ushers in a new era of the… genre.
Almost all top Chinese directors joined in the wave of period martial arts dramas after Crouching Tiger won global plaudits, but few of the films reached the level of “Assassins”, which boasts a solid story, an original perspective on martial arts and amazing imagination… – Liu Wei (China Daily)
UPDATE II – 11/29/2010 I caught the film for a second time before it exited the theatres. Some more persnickety critics may disagree, but this one is a must-see for martial arts film fans. The central action sequence which coincides with the film’s major plot twist / revelation is one of the greatest swordplay action sequences of all time, IMHO.
“Reign of Assassins”Â Sweet & Sour Cinema review
by Zuo Shou 左手
Finally — for the first time since this blog was established — I saw an English-subtitled film in a Chinese cinema, and can do a proper review. And luckily it was a high-quality action film that I was fully understanding and enjoying!
I was keeping an eye on this film as it was preparing for release. The fact that is was being promoted as “(Co-)Directed by John Woo” brought high expectations. However, in the trailers I was not seeing the Woo “trademark” cinematic style. Furthermore, the lead casting of Michelle Yeoh had me a little underwhelmed; I thought maybe she was getting on a bit in years to anchor an martial arts pic, and other cast members weren’t attracting me much. After the film was released, it was getting ‘ok’ reviews from the public and what’s more didn’t exactly seem to be attracting the local theatres’ filmgoers in throngs.
I was going to let it go until I saw the strongly positive review (below) in Film Business Asia, and I realized I was possibly overlooking something special. So I checked the film out, and I was so glad I did.
The FBA review below pretty much says what needs to be said. An early sequence where the two leads do a slow courtship does take its time to set things up and tested my patience a bit, but when things get cranking, it’s undeniably gripping and exciting, with considerable dramatic heft. The action ranges from good to excellent, and actually the flow and speed of it is such that it makes multiple viewings desirable in order to savor the densely-packed action scenes.
The mark of John Woo doesn’t seem to be so much in the direction (he is variably credited in different roles on the production, depending on the release location); I think he was producing and probably enhancing the action scenes. I think his mark can be detected in a kind of broad human touch which grounds the overall drama — said drama becoming a bit extreme at times, although enjoyably so, with some astoundingly “out-there” plot points.
I found the film’s audience reaction very interesting, and indicative of the movie’s quality. As the plot thickenened the audience members reactions and whispers to each other demarked their becoming palpably more entranced and engaged in trying to figure out the puzzles, secrets and mysterious shifting alliances on the screen.
It’s the best swordplay film since “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.
Film Business Asia review (EXCERPT)
by Derek Elley
3 September 2010
Reign of Assassins (剑雨) – Rated 9 out of 10
A tip-top cast, well-crafted script and punchy action capture the classic essence of the swordplay genre…
It’s been a long time since a movie has captured the essence of the costume martial arts genre as well as Reign of Assassins (剑雨). Without heavy resort to visual effects, and without going too far down any one stylistic road, the film gives new life to a genre that’s been pulled every which way in the past 20 years in search of new thrills. The biggest compliment that can be paid to the movie is that it’s just like opening and reading a classic swordplay novel, but also seems absolutely of its era and with its own identity, with no sense of being a retro-flavoured tribute…
FBA review article link here