Nostalgia sometimes blinds us. Some of the old kung fu movies were really crap – at least in the non-fight departments. The only thing that they had going for them was the exuberant energy provided by the performers; the plots were thin, the sound was crap, and the camera work stilted. However, we’ve come a long way from the 70s, and the 80s and the 90s refined the techniques that gave us classics like Once Upon A Time In China and Swordsman.
Well, it’s the 21st century and I can honestly say that Reign of Assasins or Jianyu Jianghu, as it is known in the Chinese market, is another martial arts classic in the vein of the best of the genre.
Produced and directed by the master himself, John Woo, it also has a stellar cast composed of Michelle Yeoh, Barbie Hsu, and others. What you have here is the promise of a really good film and it doesn’t fail to deliver. Kelly Lin – who is criminally underused – is the assassin Drizzle of the Dark Stone. She’s managed to walk away from her former occupation with a sacred artifact in her possession. However, the only way to really escape is to disappear like the mist. And that she does by undergoing cosmetic surgery via bone-eating worms and gold-leaf implants into the unassuming identity of Jing, who happens to be played by Michelle Yeoh. Kelly Lin is an uber-babe but becoming Yeoh is definitely an upgrade.
So Jing blends into the city life, leaving her old life behind. She even gets married to a well-meaning courier. Alas, domestic bliss isn’t meant to be – which you already know since this is a kung-fu flick not a retired-assassin flick.
I can honestly say that this movie is a modern classic of the genre. It’s got a magnificent fights from all involved, a logical story, and great performances from everyone, especially from Ms. Yeoh. It even has a love story sandwiched somewhere in there, if you want to convince your significant other to watch it.
Definitely a must-watch for any aficionado of the genre. It’s available at Amazon and other online retailers.