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Ying Xiong (2002)

Ying Xiong. Feature film. (2002, 93 mins) IMDB

...Visually stunning, but still a movie to hold a series of fight sequences....

H

ERO or YING XIONG is a Chinese martial arts film where instead of hands and feet and whatever gadgets or weapons marital arts experts use, the combatants use swords, fly in the air, slow time and otherwise defy the known laws of physics.

It's a movie filled with a simple narrative designed to hold a series of fight sequences. It's filled with epic battle scenes and wondrous shots filled with colour and majesty. While the film uses CGI, there are scenes with hundreds of real men in ancient Chinese battle gear with swords, bow & arrow, shields, and the images are spectacular, but it's still a film about a bunch of fight sequences. No ordinary fight sequences, but still lots and lots and lots of fighting.

I say a simple narrative because it is. An assassin arrives at what looks like the Forbidden City in Beijing to meet with the current emperor or king or warlord--take your pick. The assassin tells the leader how he killed this assassin and that assassin and so on. With each recounting of what happening, we flashback to the fight. But there's a twist. The assassin is lying and the king tells him so which means we get another version of fights with the other main characters. Why do this? So five characters (three men--Nameless (Jet Li), Broken Sword, Sky and two women--Moon and Flying Snow) can have fights over and over. Fights where one kills the other, but since it didn't happen that way, they can live to fight in the next sequence and the next. A small cast instead of many, many characters who are killed off one by one. Do you see how that works?

A common ploy to create twists in the film is to use deception or misinformation. At the start of the film, the Jet Li character is portrayed as a hero to the king, he killed three assassins, but as the film progresses, we learn it was a ploy. Jet Li is also an assassin. He wants the king dead and concocting this plots gets him in position to do just that--something he couldn't do otherwise.

Some people love this type of movie. I liked the visuals, but I was bored with the fight sequences and bored with the simple narrative. To keep myself interested, I listened to the English overdubbed dialogue and compared it to the English subtitles. There's a big difference. The dubbed version was written to sync with the character's lips who are speaking in Chinese. It meant a lot of rewrites. Whoever was responsible for the dubbing version deserves an award because it's not easy to do. It's a bit like doing a NY Times Sunday crossword a hundred and fifty times.

Posted 2009/02/22 at 18h35ET in Movie Commentary.

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