The Tong family was framed 20 years ago and sentenced to death for treason. Tong Bik (Liza Wang) escaped with her life although she lost her infant son. Her husband Ling Fung (Adam Cheng) was plucked from death by Cheung Sing, a eunuch, and sentenced to a life of servitude, serving the eunuch as a captain of the guards as Cheung Sing schemed to gain the emperor's favour. Ling agreed to serve the eunuch so that he could remain in the capital to seek revenge on the Szema family that he believed caused the Tong family's downfall. He wears a mask to hide the tattoo that marks him as a death row convict.
When Tong Bik's second husband dies she decides to take revenge against the Szema family by returning to the capital and setting up a weapons foundry to challenge the Szema family for business. She tries to win business by making a sword that can be used at a competition to show off the foundry's abilities. She meets a young man Mang Lui (Raymond Lam), who has a crippled mother. He agrees to become the foundry's swordsman in the competition. Mang Lui and Tong Bik's daughter Wong Yee (Shirley Yeung) fall in love, not knowing that they are half-brother and sister. Meanwhile, a famous doctor's daughter, Tsun Wai (Mimi Lo) comes to try to heal Mang Lui's mother and also falls for him.
Ling Fung meets his wife, whom he thought was dead, and doesn't dare reveal himself to her. He tries hard to prevent her from acting recklessly in her quest for revenge. Eventually the Szema family is destroyed and the remaining members of the family are cast out of their home. The daughter, Szema Ping Ting, (Yeung Shuet) is very angry and also vows revenge. The tale becomes a complex web of plotting and counter plots as Szema Ping Ting schemes to kill Tong Bik, Mang Lui discovers his real parentage and becomes enraged and Cheung Sing tries to eliminate his political rivals.
Adam Cheng revels in his role as the heroic but tragic Ling Fung. Sometimes he overacts, with lots of eye-rolling. But overall, he puts in a solid performance. His conflict is clear on his face as he has no choice but to submit to Cheung Sing's will and yet strains to rebel against the eunuch's evil plots.
I feel that Liza Wang did a better job than Adam Cheng although both are just as experienced. She's steadier and has just the right touch in all the scenes. She's more restrained in her acting, giving it greater impact. The greatest flaw, however, is that her character fails to recognise Ling Fung, her husband, even though the mask only hides a quarter of his face. No doubt it's been 20 years and she thought he was dead, but she doesn't even have an inkling.
Mimi Lo is a surprise in this show. She's given a rather big role as the doctor and she does a great job. Her face is expressive and you can see when she feels happy or sad. She can more than hold her own among the veterans.
Raymond Lam puts in a credible performance as the intense and brooding Mang Lui. He can act emotional or cold-hearted. His only flaw is his inability to click with either Wong Yee or Tsun Wai. He's not convincing in his love for either.
Yeung Shuet as Szema Ping Ting also has a huge role. The woman is a psychopath, obsessed only with vengeance and has no conscience at all. She doesn't care who she chops down, even if they're relatives. It's a juicy role but Yeung's acting leaves much to be desired. She doesn't engage the viewer at all as she's rather bland. The dubbing didn't help.
Shirley Yeung as Wong Yee is watchable. She doesn't do much except live up to her pretty face. Her role isn't a taxing one, except to look cute when Mang Lui appears and miserable when she gets picked by the emperor.
Chan Hung Lit as Cheung Goong Goong, the eunuch, was excellent. He really brought the evil character alive with his eyes and his hand gestures. His scenes with Adam Cheng made the show, as they were filled with tension and suppressed emotions.
A few other actors and actresses were also watchable -- Szema Yi (don't know the actor's name but he really looked the part of a weary and regal swordsman), Mang Lui's adoptive mother (suitably self-sacrificing and loving), Fo Sang (devoted to Tong Bik and really looks like a blacksmith).
The really bad ones are Carlo Ng as Szema Siu Yiu (over-earnest), Gregory Lee as Ho Fei (boring and bland), the boy emperor (awful and annoying) and Chor Kau (don't know his real name but his slavish devotion to Szema Ping Ting didn't make sense).
This show is all about tragedy piled upon tragedy with a high mortality rate. Blade Heart is almost painful to watch as most of the characters continuously keep secrets from each other and act on their own and their foolish actions almost inevitably lead to a bad end. They get blinded, branded like an animal, killed, etc, etc. It is saved only by the admirable performances of the cast, which make the show riveting. The start is a bit slow, and the show could have been cut short. But as the plot builds up, there is more intrigue and scheming. It depends on good, old-fashioned acting to bring out the poignancy of the story as there aren't too many special effects or thrills. Watch it for the solid acting and beautiful scenery, but be warned it can be rather depressing. Skip it if you like happy, feel-good shows.
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