By: Anthony Francis
Fans of Wuxia style action (such as myself) will be pleased with the new film “The Emperor’s Sword”.
Directed by Zhang Yingli, this is a fast paced and action-packed film that delivers some good battles with skill and style while telling a great story that unfolds like an ancient tale handed down for generations to the youth by their elders.
During the Qin Dynasty (created by the self-titled “The First Emperor” who unified China), heroes known as “The Seven Gentlemen” (The Virtuous, The Wisdom, The Polite, The Valor, The Brave, The Vigor, and The Wise) band together to guard a sword that is promised to bring peace to the land. The sword was divided into two parts with one going to the palace and one going under the protection of the trusted General Meng Tian, Commander to The Seven Gentlemen.
It was said that the man who holds both swords will conquer the world entire.
The Seven Gentlemen retire knowing the sword is safe and peace has been found. It is a peace that will blossom for only ten years.
When the First Emperor dies, the evil Zhao Gao takes away all imperial power and kills the emperor’s son but the daughter escapes with the sword. Zhang Gao vows to stop at nothing and kill anyone to retrieve the two swords that will make him ruler of China, as one of the “Gentlemen” ‘protects the daughter and tries to keep the sword safe.
All types of battles ensue!
There are many bow and arrow attacks that are quite thrilling, with an opening battle where archers let fly thousands of arrows as a battlefield of warriors fight.
A particularly good (but too short) archery battle in a bamboo forest is rather well executed and holds some clever moves.
The best moment in the film is when our hero lays waste to twenty soldiers in a fantastic and blood splattered sequence of pure vengeance. The scene is shot perfectly, with the action taking place in a tight alleyway where there is nowhere to move but backwards and forwards. It is a fantastic fight and leads to the film’s moment of truth between the last men standing, exploding into a duel to the death between old comrades.
Although the director relies a bit too much on the use of slow-motion (and much too heavy on the CGI) the action moments still pop, are well executed by the superior Chinese stunt teams, and are all highlighted by fantastic Art Direction.
The action scenes are almost nonstop and each of them have a point, many of them carrying a dramatic weight with every slash, kick, and release of an arrow.
These days, there are not many Action films in existence that wow their audience while still maintaining a certain potency.
“The Emperor’s Sword” is one such film.
And make sure to stay for the end credits. In a interesting move, and as a throwback to the end credit style of Jackie Chan films, they take us behind the scenes of the making of the film. A clever addition that adds to the fun.