Reign of Assassins: on DVD

Monday, 25 February 2013 00:00
Posted in Cult Movies on DVD
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Reign of Assassins on DVDMartial arts movie supremo John Woo (“Red Cliff”, “Mission Impossible II”) co-directed this “Wuxia” flick alongside Su Chao-Pin (“Silk”), with the ageless and incomparable Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Tomorrow Never Dies”) in the starring role. Set in ancient China, the plot concerns the ancient remains of a monk bestowed with magical powers, and the efforts of a gang of deadly assassins intent on seizing them.

Drizzle (Yeoh), a particularly efficient member of the brutal Dark Stone gang, decides to change her ways and makes off with the prized remains to prevent them falling into the wrong hands, which basically means those of her murderous colleagues. She undergoes dramatic facial surgery to change her identity, relocates and sets up shop as a cloth vendor. She falls for a kindly, handsome neighbour (Woo-sung Jung – “The Warrior”) but the Dark Stone posse is closing in.

“Reign of Assassins” is quite a small-scale, personal movie in contrast to many of the huge, massive-cast dramas shot in China. There are not many characters to worry about and the story moves at quite a pace, meaning that it is easy to follow and definitely fun to watch.

The fight scenes, of which there are quite a few, are mainly weapon-based and feature blazing demonstrations of wire-fu. Correspondingly, the combat is not based in reality but on the other hand, these characters are not invincible either (well not quite), so they do get hurt and do bleed.

The fighters whirl around one another in a trance-inducing, balletic dance, defying gravity and sense as they run up walls, limbo impossibly under slashing blades, and spin like a top, robes flowing to accentuate the effect. Some of the outside scenes slightly lose a sense of danger, but the battles that take place indoors are heated and fierce.

Yeoh and her primary Dark Stone co-stars are superb, including boss-man The Wheel King (Xueqi Wang – “Bodyguards and Assassins”), Lei Bin (Shawn Yue – “Internal Affairs”, “Dragon Tiger Gate”), Turquoise (Kelly Lin – “Mad Detective”) and The Magician (Leon Dai – “Silk”). They carry off the taxing choreography with grace and power, and filling their pantomime-esque characters with magnetic energy. Lei Bin has a nice line in deadly needle-throwing (and a seemingly endless supply of the things), and The Magician confounds by igniting his sword and cloak in flames like a matador.

It is by no means the best martial arts film ever produced, but it is a very solid and entertaining release that gets my thumbs up!

Special features include:

  • Preparing the Story
  • Challenging the Strongest
  • The Characters
  • Destiny
  • Sword Fighting & Magic

 

Unfortunately, my screener disc did not include any of this bonus content. The picture quality was also below par for DVD titles these days, but hopefully that can be attributed to it being a non-commercial preview, complete with overlaid time-counter. Shame there’s no UK Blu-ray version.

“Reign of Assassins” (2010) is out now on DVD, courtesy of eOne. The main feature has a running time of 103 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £12.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:25

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