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March 06, 2012

Blade of Kings

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Chin gei bin 2: Fa dou daai jin / The Twins Effect II
Corey Yuen & Patrick Leung - 2004
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Blade of Kings is full of mystery, beginning with why is this eight year old film getting a U.S DVD release now? I had to check my Netflix queue to remind myself that, yes, I did see the first film, with the English language title of Vampire Effect at about the same time this film was originally released for Chinese language audiences. What I can assure everyone is that seeing that first film will neither help nor hinder any enjoyment out one might get here.

The rather elaborate story involves a kingdom ruled by a woman unhappy in love, where women rule, and men are shackled slaves called "dumbells". There is also a prophesy that a young man is going to find the sword, Excalibur, and make things right in the world. The evil queen will have none of that and sends a spy to try and stop a pair of young men who have a map that's suppose to lead them to the sword. The spy competes with another young woman who is out to kidnap one of the young men, to be the personal slave for her boss, a woman of great power and heft. This is a movie with characters named 13th Young Master, Blue Bird, Red Vulture (a too briefly seen Fan Bingbing), Block Head, and Charcoal Head, with Donnie Yen as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

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There are lots of special effects and lots of wire work. The film came out at a time when Chinese producers were certain that the way to world wide success was with lots of CGI and wire work. And some of the films were better than others, but the response was generally indifference here is the U.S.

The best part of Blade of Kings is watching Charlene Choi mugging, whining, laughing, fighting and kicking her way through the story. She's got a roundish face, and is not as conventionally pretty as Gillian Chung. Nonetheless, she is the one who grabs the attention here with her animated facial expressions. What should be explained, for those unaware, is that Choi and Chung are part of a Cantopop duo called Twins. They play rivals here, and one wishes that if the two are going to do any more films together, that they team up with Jeffrey Lau, possibly the best purveyor of nonsense films around, to do something like a distaff version of the old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road" movies. For those less familiar with Choi, I recommend the film, Diary by Oxide Pang.

The best scene in the film is near the beginning when Choi and Chung first encounter each other. Bickering leads to a duel involving swords, fists, feet, and yards of cloth. Sure, there is a heavy reliance on special effects, but still . . . watching the two encounter, evade, and move around each other is like watching ballet as imagined by action choreographer extraordinaire Corey Yuen. I am less familiar with co-director Patrick Leung, but he had his hand in the very funny La Brassiere, a film I'd recommend to anyone who loves the classic comedies of Frank Tashlin. For some people, the selling points pf Blade of Kings are seeing Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan, who also have a scene where they duel each other with swords and spears. For myself, Blade of Kings would have been much better if everyone involved allowed the presence of Choi and Chung to firmly be the point of the film. The assumed extra star power here is unneeded baggage for two young women who do best when they're the only ones on the screen.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 6, 2012 08:17 AM