Swordsman 2
MEI-AH
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Ching Siu-Tung
Year:
1992
Run Time:
108mins
Producer: Mei Ah
_---
--
Languages:
CANTONESE Mono, Mandarin Mono, Cantonese 5.1, Mandarin 5.1
Subtitles:
Removable Chinese (S+T), English, Korean, Malaysian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
1.85:1 Non Anamorphic
Region:
NTSC 0
Genre:
Swordplay - II
--
MOVIE
9/10

Reprising the role played by Sam Hui in the first Swordsman, Jet Lee stars as Ling, in Ching Siu-Tung's visually stunning 1992 sequel.

The rather convoluted plot revolves around Ling's attempt to return to Ox Mountain with his sidekick Kiddo, along with his remaining Kung-Fu brothers.
A chance encounter with Invincible Dawn, the power-hungry brother of Wei, Ling's sweetheart's father, leads to a turn of events neither party expects.

If the you found the above description perplexing, then be prepared for more of the same upon watching the movie. Ching Siu-Tung's solo efforts often cross the line of "intricate" storytelling into the plain confusing, and unfortunately Swordsman 2 is no different.
In trying to bring so many disparate plot-threads together, Ching ends up muddying the waters, and although not ruining the film it certainly makes it difficult to follow.

Stripping away all of the different subplots, what is left is the intriguing relationship of Ling and Invincible Dawn.
Having cut off his penis in order to increase his martial power, Dawns' body undergoes a strange metamorphosis whilst he continues his training.
Gradually turning into a woman, both physically and emotionally, whilst also attempting to direct his/her troops during the ongoing battle with the Mainlanders, Dawn's life couldn't get get any more complicated....until he becomes attracted to Ling.

Although the film focuses on its visuals to a great extenet - sometimes to the detriment of its plot - one of the most impressive elements of the story is the complicated relationship between Ling and Dawn.
The development of their mutual attraction is handled very maturely, avoiding any silly slapstick set-pieces, and makes the finale all the more tragic.

Putting in a truly fabulous performance as Dawn, Brigitte Lin mixes her character's split personalities with ease. The way in which her face contorts with rage at one moment, then breaks into a beautiful smile the next, provides the contrasting aspects of her masculinity and femininity, and is quite breathtaking. Without such a talented actress the character would be laughable.

From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, the film is unparalleled. The lighting, direction, special effects and cinematography are almost overwhelming at times, and you occasionally lose track of what's being said as you take in the amazing images on-screen.
Of particular note are the special effects. The Wire-Work is used exceptionally well in order to convey the differing levels of internal power, with the characters gracefully flying, flipping and spinning through the air.
Although Jet Lee's role of Ling is more acting than action, he is still given one of the film's coolest sword techniques. This amazing sword-spinning skill, which makes Ling's blade rotate around his body, is used whilst he battles his enemies.
To try to adequately describe this, and many of the other action sequences, is almost impossible, and is testament to Ching's ingenious choreography.

PICTURE
7/10

Having felt slightly unimpressed with Mei-Ah's previous offerings, I was hoping for an improvement with this release - in some ways it is, and in others it isn't...

The state of the print is pretty bad to start with. Many sparkles, scratches and marks appear in almost every scene, and at certain times become distracting.
Aside from this element, the technical aspects of the disc are a mixed bag.
A film which relies heavily on its lighting, Mei-Ah's disc shows this off to great effect. The warm yellows and reds are reproduced very well, with only a few instances of slight bleeding.
Blues are similarly impressive, and combined with the high level of detail, pay full tribute to the films visual style.
However, the same problems with artifacting that dogged Mei-Ah's Full Contact disc also affect this transfer. The pixellation occurs constantly, and whilst generally quite mild, is very noticeable in the many dark, interior scenes. This gives the picture a slightly roughened look, and although it doesn't ruin the viewing experience, it does distract you at times.

SOUND
8/10

Reasonably accomplished 5.1 remixes in Cantonese and Mandarin are included, along with the Mono versions of the soundtrack.
Personally, I much prefer the Mono track, which was clear, strong, contained no distortion and reproduced the many pieces of music perfectly.

Extra: Jet was filmed speaking his Cantonese dialogue in Mandarin throughout the movie. However, the rest of the cast changed their dialects to Cantonese and Mandarin where directed in the script. Jet's character was then dubbed into Cantonese during post-production.
The Cantonese track IS the one to use whilst watching the film, but it doesn't match Jet's mouth-movements at all.

SUBTITLES
2/10

As I remarked in the introduction, Swordsman 2's plot is not the easiest to follow at the best of times, and unfortunately the very poor subtitles do nothing to improve this.
Almost every line is full of spelling and grammatical errors, as well as confusing tense usages - such as "You are defeated by Master". This should be "You WERE deated by my Master" etc.

After being quite impressed with the subs on the Full Contact disc, these came as a big disappointment.
One of the most irritating elements of the subs are their inconsistency. During Ling's meeting with Dawn he recites a poem to her, which Dawn reminds him of in the film's finale.
However, the subtitles translate this poem completely differently the second time round. Even Kiddo is referred to as "Carol" at one point!
It's a great pity Mei-Ah didn't take more care whilst transcribing the subtitles, as much of the dialogue's poetic nature has been lost in the process - my old, sadly defunct VHS copy made a much better job of this.

MENUS
7/10

Some very nicely designed screens, featuring shots from the movie, are found throughout the disc - but considering there are so few extras, you'll rarely visit many of them more than once.

A nice touch is that every screen is accompanied by the "Hero Of Heroes" theme.

EXTRAS
3/10

For God's Sake Mei-Ah, Learn How To Time Encode A Disc!!!
Yet again, it's impossible to know how far you are into the film, and the only way to move through the disc is using fast-forward, or the Chapter-stops.
But wait, the chapter-stops aren't encoded either, meaning you get no indication of which chapter you are on, or how many are left...

On a more positive note, there is a good looking , although rather pointless music trailer, which plays the "Hero of Heroes" song whilst splicing in scenes from the movie.
The dull trailer for Treasure Hunt is also bundled under the ironically titled "Best Buy" menu.

9 Chapter-stops are included, as is a pathetic list of the cast and crew. No-one gets a biography or filmography, but considering the quality of the English subtitles, I doubt that either would've been of much use.

PACKAGING
8/10

An eye-catching design, featuring a great still of Jet Lee, adorns the front cover of this very smart sleeve.
The back is just as classy, and even the plot synopsis is of a good standard - although "Fong" is used instead of "Dawn"?!?
As with the Full Contact release, the disc itself has a replica of the cover printed on it, and makes a nice change from the average silver-coaster appearance of many discs.

CONCLUSION
6/10

Although my feelings towards certain elements of the film are mixed, I still feel this is required viewing for any Hong Kong movie fan.
Unfortunately, due solely to the poor subtitles, an already hard to follow plot is made even more complex.
As such, I think it either better to wait for another company to release this, or to only purchase it after you have become very well accustomed to Hong Kong-style subtitles.

It's an excellent film, on a far from perfect disc. Because of this, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it.

MOVIE 9/10
PICTURE
7/10
SOUND
8/10
SUBTITLES
2/10
EXTRAS
3/10
MENUS
7/10
PACKAGING
8/10
OVERALL 6/10