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March 28, 2023

Code of the Assassins

code of the assassins.jpeg

Qing mian Xiuluo
Daniel Lee - 2022
WellGo USA Entertainment

My interest in seeing Code of the Assassin was based on seeing how some current factors have influenced the wuxia film. At my age, I am not part of the demographic that this film was made for, primarily teens and young adults. Nor was this film made to be given any true critical examination. There may have been some smuggling of a serious theme, but it could also be that I might be reading too much into Lee's film.

The plot, such as it is, is almost generic. Taking place in the fantasy past, there are rival kingdoms and shaky alliances. The film follows Qi, a young made raised in the Ghost Valley to be a masked assassin. He is seeking revenge on the unknown people who murdered his parents and other family members, and to reclaim a small, golden block on which a guide to hidden treasure has been inscribed. The Ghost Valley assassins all wear golden masks, and some have special weapons. Qi has a special replacement mechanical arm. Making things more convoluted is having some of these masked assassins recruited to fight each other. Qi meets a pretty female assassin and a plot twist most can guess at an hour before its finally explained by the film's characters.

There is very little depth to the characters. What the filmmakers are more interested in is the spectacle of battles between armies, explosions, and some man-to-man fighting. The film takes place in a CGI heavy universe. Code of the Assassins was made for the viewer whose visual diet consists of comic book inspired films and video games. Even some of the music score sounds inspired by video game music with its blend of classical themes, synth, and the thumpety-thump bass guitar. There is also some unnecessary speeding up and slow motion employed. That the narrative elements do not entirely cohere is besides the point. The various Batman films seem to have also influenced the film taking place in dark places, as if darkness signifies some sort of gravitas. The closing scene suggests the launching a superhero franchise for the local audience, a Chinese dark knight.

Being a filmmaker in China has never been easy. Daniel Lee identifies himself as a Hong Konger, but that means that if he wants to make the big budget films that require funding from mainland China, he would either have to make a "patriotic" film or something apolitical. And here is where i think Lee may have possibly included something that could be read as a hint. Qi asks the main villain to identify his weapon. The reply is that the "plot" is his weapon, changing or creating some kind of narrative that will affect others. One does not necessarily have to look at China to understand how historical or current events get subject to revision. Again this is a subjective reading on my part, presented almost in passing.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 28, 2023 06:25 AM