Slave of the Sword

Director: Chu Yen-ping
Year: 1993

For the first fifteen minutes of Slave of the Sword one might easily be under the impression that they were watching your basic traditional early-90ís wuxia Ė people floating in the air, a symphony of clashing swords, bottles of spurting blood, heads being sent off in different directions than the bodies, cold blooded assassins waiting for their payment, an evil white-haired eunuch with a wicked laugh and so on. Then suddenly you are faced with a naked female nipple being imbibed upon by said assassin and not long afterwards Pauline Chan is unceremoniously rolled out naked from a carpet to a room full of waiting courtesans who inspect her body and pronounce it ready for consumption. Perhaps, this isnít exactly your traditional wuxia.

But then this isnít your traditional director. This is Chu Yen-ping, the mastermind behind such delights as Golden Queen Commandos, Pink Force Commando, Seven Foxes and Fantasy Mission Force. Chu Yen-ping is probably responsible for the acting nadir of more actors than the plague Ė Brigitte Lin, Sally Yeh and Jackie Chan being the most famous Ė but in truth even if they were forced to work for Chu due to pressure brought on by scowling men with tattoos, arenít we rather glad they did? His films are often such incompetent, incontinent messes that they are sometimes glorious. Sadly, that isnít really the case here. The film almost makes sense and that is usually a bad sign for Chuís films and it is lacking in his typical excesses such as Brigitte Lin attaching a machine gun to her amputated arm. That was a movie moment to cherish. Slave of the Sword is more of a Freudian examination of children working out their desertion anxieties as adults Ė with swords, poison, throttling and ripping out of tongues. All covered in Psych 101.

Brother Yun (Jackson Lau) and Sister Hon (Joyce Ngai) are paid assassins Ė give them payment and they will kill anyone and bring back their head as proof. In their spare time they like to lick each otherís wounds and other parts of each otherís anatomy. Their pay master is Eunuch Li (Max Mok) who has a lot of enemies out there and wants them all dead. One of them is the father of Wu Nien (Pauline Chan), who puts on a nice dance show in taverns around the countryside at 7, 9 and 11 pm. Reservations not needed. Why the old father of a tavern entertainer is killed is a mystery but it sets Wu Nien on a rapid descent into rags and a dirty face Ė but then she is kidnapped and sold to the local Madam Ė also our Sister Hon who is clearly a multi-tasker. The film quickly devolves into a pale imitation of Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan as Wu Nien goes from victim to victimizer as she cuddles up with Sister Hon much to the displeasure of Sister Honís former lesbian lover. It is slowly revealed that all the main characters are tied together by childhood and all of them are still really pissed.

My rating for this film: 5.0