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
A chance encounter with Invincible Dawn, the power-hungry brother
of Wei, Ling's sweetheart's father, leads to a turn of events neither
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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"
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.
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.
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.
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
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.