The Laughing and Proud Warrior
Invincible Asia Saga

Enter Swordsman 2.

Ching Siu Tung (A Chinese Ghost Story) takes control of the direction and creates a darker and more cryptic movie. This time around, Ling is played by superstar Jet Li who gives the character a more charismatic, wild and physical edge (which is needed since he is playing against a powerhouse goddess by the name of Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia). Kiddo is played by Michelle Reis and Ying, the rip-cracking Highlander Chief, is played by Rosamund Kwan (both actresses were paired with Jet Li in other productions). And, as mentioned, Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia plays Asia The Invincible. Brigitte Lin was a popular Hong Kong actress of the 1980s, appearing in such classics as Peking Opera Blues and Jackie Chan's Police Story. Her role as Asia The Invincible turned her into a full-fledged icon of Asian cinema—leading to many prominent roles in Hong Kong films in the early 1990's (The Bride With White Hair; Chunking Express; etc.).

In Laughing and Proud Warrior 2: Invincible Asia, Ling is re-introduced as a perpetual wine-drinker traveling across the countryside, with his trusty sidekick, Kiddo.  After a planned reunion with their friends of the Sun Moon Sect (who they haven't seen for several months), Ling and Kiddo plan to migrate to Ox Mountain, where they can permanently kick back and enjoy drink and song (not that Ling doesn't enjoy the two wherever he's at). I cannot get over the fact that so many people neglect to tell the importance of seeing Swordsman before Swordsman 2. The sequel does take it for granted that the viewer has seen the previous film (and why shouldn't it?) and there are so many little plot-points and nuances to Swordsman 2 that are illuminated after viewing the first Swordsman. For example, the relationship between Ling and the Sun Moon Sect is greatly enhanced (and makes a lot more sense) with knowledge of these characters' prior adventure. Also, a simple tidbit like Ling placing a scorpion into his wine to give it an extra kick becomes far more humorous when one gets the entire joke (in the first movie, Ling survived drinking wine that was laced with poison). After a series of imaginative action-sequences (one of which includes ninjas flying on giant shooting-stars), Ling, Kiddo and some of their Wah Mountain mates, reunite with their Sun Moon Sect friends, Chief Ying and Blue Phoenix. But oh...what a difference a few months make! It is revealed that Chief Ying's father, Master Wu (the Head Chief of the Sun Moon Sect) has been imprisoned and Ying's uncle Asia has taken over the Sect. In actuality, Asia has taken over a lot more than the Sect. With each film in this trilogy, the power-struggle expands and more territories get involved. In Swordsman 2, Asia leads the Sun Moon Sect to conquer the Mainlanders (who look down upon Highlanders) and in the process gets the Japanese involved (hence, the ninjas). Feeling obligated to help out Ying, Ling offers to go on one final mission to free her father, before he retires to Ox Mountain. This leads Ling into a whole new conflict that causes him to reluctantly return to the world of martial arts.

Now this is where it gets really interesting.

Unbeknownst to our heroes, Ying's uncle Asia is in the process of becoming aunt Asia. Having possession of the notorious Sacred Scroll, Asia has made use of it (unlike any of the characters in the previous film) and has gained awesome, supernatural powers. However, the catch is, in order to work, Asia had to castrate himself. As a result, Asia (proclaiming him/herself "Invincible Asia") is metamorphosing into a female and experiencing the kind of mood-swings one would expect from a transsexual with unlimited supernatural power. And if all that wasn't enough (this is where it gets really, really interesting), our wine-drinking protagonist, Ling—without knowing who he/she really is—has begun a romantic courtship with Asia. Although The Crying Game is occasionally mentioned in Swordsman 2 reviews, I find that the romance between Ling and Asia is usually never mentioned, even though it is the most important plot-line of the movie. For all its hair-splitting and fantastic action-sequences and swirling imagery, Swordsman 2 is a tragic love-story between two star-crossed lovers: Ling and Asia The Invincible.

Still, it isn't like Ling couldn't take his pick: Kiddo and Chief Ying both pine after him. Kiddo, however, is just like a brother to him (to her incessant dismay) and even though Ling does care for Chief Ying, one gets the impression that he is not in love with her. Unfortunately for Ling, the girl of his dreams is Asia and not quite a girl...although midway through the film he/she is practically there. Following the instructions of the Sacred Scroll was a double-edged sword for Asia: On one hand, it give him the unlimited supernatural powers, but on the other hand, it turned him into a she and subsequently made him far more sensitive and emotionally unstable than she probably ever was as a mere man. When Asia isn't killing and plundering, she wants to get away from things, drink her "good wine" and brood over the "heartless world". It is this side of Asia that attracts Ling and vica versa. Parenthetically, the scene when Asia and Ling begin their courtship in a body of water, while drinking wine together has to be one of the greatest moments in motion-picture history.

Alas, by the end of the film, the differences between Ling and Asia collide head-on and they are forced to fight one another. Despite being so treacherous earlier on in the film that she killed most of Ling's friends, Asia professes that her feelings for Ling are true and as a result, she cannot bring herself to destroy him—not using her full power against him. After a stunning climactic battle, Asia appears to be destroyed and Ying's father, Master Wu, reclaims his position as the Head Chief of the Sun Moon Sect. But the moral lessons of the first Swordsman are still in play here and Master Wu is shown to be as cruel—if not crueler—than Asia was before him. Fearing groundless execution, Ling and Kiddo bid farewell to Chief Ying and successfully flee to Japan. This is where the movie and Ling's story end.