In the early 1600's, the Manchurians have taken over sovereignty of China and established the Ching Dynasty. The newly set-up government immediately imposes a Martial Arts Ban, forbidding the practice of martial arts altogether in order to gain control and order. A group of soldiers travel the country seeking out those who would flout the law. A swordsman and his disciples decide to take the fight to the enemy, following a plea from a group of villagers. The SEVEN SWORDS is formed and their heroic journey begins. As they lead the entire village to the road of a safer place, they discover there is a trator amongst them. Between this narrow gap of life and death, the situation is further complicated by the blossoms of love.
As the title indicates, Seven Swords is in the epic spirit of The Seven Samurai and its American cousin, The Magnificent Seven. A grittier enterprise, it may not surpass Tsui Harkâ€™s 1990s classics like Once Upon a Time in China, but offers its own unique pleasures--like non-stop action (for which it received a coveted Golden Horse Award). Based on the book Seven Swordsmen from Mountain Tian, the action begins in rural China in the 1600s. The Ching Dynasty has just banned martial arts, and in response seven dissidents band together to fight against Fire-Wind (Honglei Sun) and his minions. The septet includes Hong Kong superstars Charlie Young (Wu Yuan Yin), Leon Lai (Yang Yun Chong), and Hero's Donnie Yen (Chu Zhao Nan). One of the mountain villagers they save is pretty Korean refugee Green Pearl (So-yeon Kim), who falls for the moody Chu. Filmed on location in scenic Xinjiang, Seven Swords is a feast for the eyes. Though some critics have taken Hark to task for the army's anachronistic goth-punk garb, it sure looks menacing. Originally four and a half hours long, this version clocks in at 153 minutes. Hark's soft-spoken commentary, along with Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan, is on the first disc. Deleted scenes and other extras are on the second. Because of the cuts, the complex narrative isn't always easy to follow--and the film still feels long--but the gold-tinged visuals and fight choreography by Kar-Leung Lau (The Legend of Drunken Master) helps to compensate. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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