The Assassin’s Blade (2008) – By Duane L. Martin

Legend has it a virgin boy and girl fell in love in heaven. They’re banished to the mortal world to suffer for 10 lifetimes.

1st Life: Men Jiangnu and Man Qiliang.
2nd Life: Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai.
3rd Life: Guo Hualang and Wang Yueying….

10th Life: Reincarnation from Liang and Zhu, or Madam Green Snake. But others say it’s this story.

Zhu Yanzhi comes from a wealthy family that owns a winery. Her father sends her off to learn a special form of martial arts from the Soul Ease Clan, but the catch is, since they don’t accept girls in for training, she has to dress like a man and pretend to be a boy. She’s to meet a man they call Herbal Head there, who is a friend of her father’s. Only he knows that she’s actually a girl, and has arranged for her to be taken into the clan on a trial basis.

On her travels to get the the clan, she’s traveling through town when a large group of robbers try to steal her bag. That’s when a mysterious stranger steps in to help her, and then when her brother shows up as well, they fight them off together. The mysterious stranger turned out to be Brother Liang Zhongshan of the Soul Ease Clan. Everyone calls him Big Brother because he was adopted by the master when he was only a child and taught their martial arts. Now he’s sort of the big brother to all the students there.

During her time there, Yanzhi has difficulty with her training, but makes a lot of friends, and when it comes down to her 100 day probationary test to see if she can stay with the clan, her brother Ma Changen shows up and tells her that her parents have been arrested and they have to go back home. What he didn’t tell her is that he arranged it and got a big promotion for it from the General. Returning home with her, he makes a show of getting her parents freed, and then expects them to marry her off to him in their gratitude, but during her time with the Clan, Yanzhi had fallen in love with Zhongshan, and refuses to marry Ma. When her parents try to force her, both Shan and Herbal Head try to come up with ways for her to escape Ma’s evil plans, but with Ma holding all the cards, as well as having a full fighting force at his disposal, it may already be too late. Will these two lovers ever manage to be together, or will their fates keep them apart forever? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

The Assassin’s Blade is a somewhat unbalanced film. It starts out as a very light and amusing film, then sort of turns into a bit of a romantic comedy, but then half way through, it takes a very dark turn when Ma Chengen has her parents arrested, and then later threatens to have them killed unless she marries him. I understand why the film takes such a dark turn, because it relates to the story we’re told at the beginning about the virgin lovers and their reincarnations, but if that was the case, I think it would have been better to have kept the film more serious from the start, rather than to have the story feel so "yin/yang", so to speak.

Visually, the film is really gorgeous. I’ve come to expect amazing visuals from the films coming out of Asia. They really go all out with them, and this film, while more simple visually than many others, still presents you a fully fleshed out world with some wonderfully choreographed fights, gorgeous set design and architecture and some beautiful costume design.

The cast all did a wonderful job with their roles as well, with one bit of an exception. Ge Hu as Ma Chengen was supposed to be this guy who was so desperately in love with Yanzhi that he’d do anything he had to do to possess her. Once the film takes its dark turn, I would have expected him to have turned totally evil and ruthless, because that’s what his actions would lead you to expect from the character, and yet the way he played it, it almost felt like he wasn’t really a bad guy, but that he was just in love with Yanzhi and desperate to have her, even to the point of seeming to regret his actions, even as he did these things. Yet at other times, he just didn’t seem to have any conscience at all about that he was doing. The way it was played made the character feel a bit unbalanced.

Despite a few issues, this film is a wonderful experience full of memorable characters, wonderful visual, some great martial arts and it finishes off with an ending that is both depressing and yet still manages to be warm and beautiful, and is definitely worth checking out.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.