The Sword


Reviewed by: sukting

March 27, 2009

Rating: three-point-five

How long 1.5h

Foreword

Alert – please do not be confused with the TVB drama, ‘Devil’s disciple’ -強劍. Do you wish to see the 70s no. 1 Dai Haps from TVB and ATV pitting their skills together? Upon knowing that my neighbour bought the dvd, I could not contain my curiosity and borrowed it. It was based on a novel that Huang Ying (the author for ‘Reincarnated’ and ‘Sam Shing Yee’) has written. Is it as good as the two dramas?

Story

Far Chin Shu (Tien Fung) has a talk with Swordmaker, Chow (Ng Tong). He wants to refix his Chai Mut sword to make into a pair with Hon Shing Sword. Chin Shu has gone into retreat for long to avoid other swordsmen who wish to find and challenge him. Chow thinks that his sword has an evil air and he should throw it away. Someone will die by this sword soon. Chin Shu holds it and frowns. He doesn’t believe in that but also doesn’t wish this to happen. Far’s daughter, Ying Chi (Tsui Kit) is a sword expert too.

It has always been Lee Mok Yin (Cheng Siu Chau)’s wish to spar with the no. 1 sword. Mok Yin isn’t a person longing for fame to become no. 1 in the pugilistic world. He isn’t excited to know if he will win or lose. He is mentally prepared to lose. He comes to Far household but is greeted by a blind servant (Lau Siu Ming) who claims that his master is away.

Mok Yin is stunned when he can’t dodge the sword that the servant points at him. He manages to win the servant later. Mok Yin has made up his mind when he puts up at an inn. Even if he loses, he doesn’t mind becoming Chin Shu’s disciple. He can also focus on other areas which can be more important. A maiden runs into Mok Yin’s room to escape from a killer, Sau Foon (Lee Hoi Sang).

Mok Yin is amused when she lies beside him on the bed. She doesn’t appreciate his efforts when he helps her. She lands up jumping into the stream, waiting for a chance to pierce into his leg. Mok Yin comes to her aim to hurt his arm. The maiden still blames him for being a busybody. He is amused that her blouse is torn but she is past caring over it. Mistakening him to be a lecher, she runs away after giving him a slap.

The next day, she is drenched in the rain and sneezes to hide from the storm at a stop. She is dismayed to see him there. He barbecues a chicken and leaves it there, after walking away with his umbrella. She takes them and he is back! He has gone to get her some wine and she is grateful. Both refuse to reveal their names to each other but they leave together as their destination is the same.

Mok Yin is distracted to see Yin Siu Yu (Chan Kei Kei) walking into an inn. She is his ex-lover. The maiden asks if he misses his family. He denies as he is an orphan so she gathers that he misses his beloved. He guesses that she must have married someone since they have not met for so long. She laughs as he should not worry as she will keep him company.

Mok Yin goes to chat with Siu Yu. They hug each other as they miss each other till now. He is bitter to learn that she is married. The maiden laughs at them and claims that she doesn’t need him to look after her. She walks away but another man, Cheng Tiet Yee (Ko Hung) attacks Mok Yin upon seeing them together. Mok Yin manages to defend himself although he is annoyed. (How queer - he sounds as if he is never in the wrong and is very generous to give in to him.)

Tiet Yee then goes to Wan‘s side. Siu Yu’s face turns pale as he is her husband. So is Mok Yin who gets uneasy. Wan reveals that Siu Yu often mentions Mok Yin in front of him. They exchange glances and Mok Yin declines to stay although Wan invites him. He prefers to catch up with the maiden to avoid this sticky situation. Wan notices that Siu Yu is wearing very little and brings her in as there is a strong wind. Mok Yin has to see how Wan leads Siu Yu into the inn reluctantly.

Wan hates Siu Yu for being unable to forget Mok Yin. Moreover, he knows that he can never replace Mok Yin in her heart. How cold can he be – they have been in bed earlier and he puts on her lipstick for her. He combs her hair but later pulls her hair to beat her up. How can he be meeting Siu Yu in her room at midnight? (Anyone will suspect this as the timing is so inappropriate. Let’s also remember that he hugs her.) Although she explains that Mok Yin is a gentleman, he doesn’t believe her.

Wan secretly gets Tiet Yee to assassinate Mok Yin. Mok Yin is pierced on the chest but escapes. He faints by the stream and Xuen Gei (Ngai Chau Wah) rescues him. (This part isn’t explained and it seems that the director presses them to meet each other.) Mok Yin is nursed to health. Xuen Gei frowns when getting a letter. Upon hearing Chin Shu's daughter, Ying Chi has been kidnapped, Mok Yin offers to help. He is surprised that the letter is from the kidnapper, Old White Pigeon – his friend. Tiet Yee has forced him to write the letter to kill him later.

Mok Yin goes to her rescue – killing Sau Foon by piercing his forehead with the sword. (It is done fast but yet clear even in the dark.) He saves Ying Chi from a burning wooden platform - only to find Ying Chi is the girl he had rescued before. Mok Yin offers to send Yin Chi home – he has promised Xuen Gei to do that. Yin Chi jealously replies that he should keep Siu Yu company. Yin Chi – he isn’t the raindrop as he claims. Yin Chi doesn’t know that Mok Yin’s purpose of coming is for the duel.

But Lee still wants to challenge Chin Shu. Chin Shu sees that Xuen Gei has given Mok Yin the Chai Mut sword. He agrees to have the duel 3 days later. Ying Chi is mad that he makes use of him and urges him not to go or he will die as her father is the no.1 sword. The strikes and vengeance is revealed now.

Chin Shu visits Xuen Gei and notices that nothing much has changed. He is grateful to her for saving him in the past. He can only repay her kindness through his wealth. The him in the past and the present Mok Yin – Xuen Gei has the eye in knowing swordsmen. Xuen Gei is shocked to know of Mok Yin’s motive and Mok Yin is going to have his wish granted. She tries to dissuade him but this is his destiny.

She leans on him and he has given it to her, hoping to avoid it. But it is fated to happen this way. She regrets giving it away. Chin Shu and Mok Yin have a sword duel in the long grassland. Mok Yin wins Chin Shu within 10 strokes but he doesn’t feel happy as he expects. It seems that his wish isn’t as valuable as it seems. He envies the blind swordsman who is happy when his wish is granted. It seems that he has not made the correct decision.

Ying Chi runs to Xuen Gei’s home – where has she hidden Mok Yin? Xuen Gei is puzzled as he hasn’t been here. Both women rush to see Chin Shu. Tiet Yee sneaks into his bedroom when he is drinking his medicine. He appears to kill him, stabbing him on the same wound and steals Hon Shing sword.

The two women are shocked to find him dead. Ying Chi slaps Xuen Gei and demands her to return her father to her. No one will get Mok Yin’s glory as no.1 sword now. She vows to avenge his death. She lets Xuen Gei go on the account that she has rescued her. Mok Yin has gotten what he wants. But he feels empty so he visits Xuen Gei again.

He learns from Xuen Gei that Chin Shu has been ill for a long time. He forces himself to duel with Mok Yin – just to grant his wish. Mok Yin regrets and wishes to see him but learns that he is dead. Mok Yin jumps as he knows that the wound is not fatal. Xuen Gei kills herself silently at Chin Shu’s altar out of grief and guilt. Mok Yin is saddened when he pays his last respect at Chin Shu’s home and promises Ying Chi to seek out the real killer. But Ying Chi still believes that he is the killer.

Siu Yu sees Hon Shing sword in Wan’s hand so she learns what he has done. This is Wan’s plot to gain 2 evil and powerful swords for himself. She informs Mok Yin about it and also tries to explain it to Ying Chi. Ying Chi refuses to listen and forces her home. He settles Xuen Gei’s funeral and Tiet Shu comes, wanting to get Hon Shing sword. Both men fight and Tiet Yee hides at the ceiling. Meanwhile, Siu Yu shivers in fear as Wan approaches her.

Ying Chi confronts Mok Yin and he denies killing Chin Shu. Just then, he manages to pierce his sword into his body. Before dying, he admits that he wants the sword for his master. Ying Chi is displeased that Mok Yin asks her where Siu Yu is. She replies that she must return home as a married woman. Mok Yin jumps and moves quickly. The two then rush to Wan’s residence and Wan awaits them in the hall.

Ying Chi’s eyes see red upon noticing Hon Shing sword in Wan’s hand. So he kills her father for this? Wan isn’t saddened over Tiet Yee’s death. He replies that the two of them save the trouble of searching for Chai Mut sword since they come here. The two men have a duel (which is at least 15 minutes long and can be as intriguing as ‘Luk Siu Fung’) while Ying Chi runs to look for Siu Yu.

Mok Yin is initially losing but later picks himself to kill him. It is a bloody scene as Wan flies to him from the front but Mok Yin raises his sword to cut him into two, splashing blood onto his own face after breaking the Hon Shing sword. Seeing Ying Chi hesitating, he knows that something must have happened and rushes into the room. He sits still, seeing her neck cut and lying on the bed. The two swords combine to be one and Mok Yin comes to the beach by himself. He retires from the pugilistic world from then onwards.

Favourite character

None – no character leave that much of a deep impression as the characters are not completely explored.

Most hated character

Wan, he is wicked and will not hesitate to sacrifice his loved ones to achieve success.

Song

The unbeatable combination, Mr Koo Kar Fai and Mr Wong Jiem came up with this wonderful song again. The tune sounds simple and makes one feels lonely and moody. But it can suddenly become fast paced. I think it fits the scene where Mok Yin saves Ying. The singer is by Cheng Siu Chau himself. When has he failed us? He is normally excellent in singing Mou Hap songs. There is no exception for this one too.

Interesting facts

HuangYing had a hand in choosing the cast. Tsui Siu Keung and Chan Kei Kei acted in ‘Sam Shing Yee’. Tsui was his favourite since ‘Reincarnated’. Ngai Chau Wah also got her chance later to act in ‘Tin Long Juet’. Cheng Siu Chau was the only one who did not act his novels adapted as dramas. What a pity.

Director Tam was known as the NG king. There was a scene where Cheng had to thrust his sword to hit a wooden box. He jumped on the mattress for 60 times but it was still take1. There was another scene where he had finished displaying a set of sword strokes to point at the camera but it was then ‘cut’ to fit Ngai’s scenes for NGs. The strokes were displayed for 50 times.

The reporters asked Cheng how he could adapt to different directors’ styles. He replied that he belonged to AB blood group. Thus he could be a statue or a sponge. However, when it came to a point where both held different views, he would ask for a chance. But still, the decision depended on the directors.

Conclusion

Chai Mut Sword is unlucky to Chin Shu but it brings good luck to Mok Yin. He saves Ying Chi with it, defeats Chin Shu and also kills Sau Foon. At the same time, it breaks Hon Shing sword to save Mok Yin’s life. However, every owner dies after having Hon Shing sword. This shows that fate is unpredictable. The swords signify the leads’ destiny. Although they are in love, they can never become one pair.

Chin Shu and Xuen Gei, Mok Yin and Siu Yu/Yin Chi – there seem to have some hope of the two pairs being together. We can see love and concern in their eyes. However, there is a stronger opposition force, pushing them apart to let them feel each others’ presence far away. When they are close to one another, they will end up getting hurt.

The story is too predictable. How many times have we seen this plot – a young swordsman challenges an expert, an evil swordsman tries to stir up trouble, how young maidens fall for their heroes, ex-lovers marry the men they don’t love, retiring from the pugilistic world, etc. But the actors save the day. Even actresses are given meat roles to play – what more can we ask?

With Ching Siu Dong as the martial arts director, nothing can go wrong. But his student, Tham Kar Ming neglects too many areas. They are nicely presented but some styles do not link. Somehow I feel that the timing for each duel is wrong. There is a fast-paced music played when Mok Yin attacks the blind swordsman but it continues when nothing happens!  

It seems that Tiet Yee is most highly skilled. Mok Yin defeats Wan and Chin Shu but is injured by him. Yet, he can kill Tiet Yee and Wan in the end. His skills can be good or poor. No wonder Ying Chi asks if Mok Yin is really a swordsman as his standard is so inconsistent!

Mok Yin wants fame while Wan is a keen follower of the sword. Mok Yin doesn’t write to Siu Yu for 10 years to seek improvement. It is not written how much Wan spends to come out of retreat but all are sure how much money and time he has placed in. Both swordsmen have given up everything for both desires.

Mok Yin is luckier as he at least spars with Chin Shu but Wan never gets to touch both swords at the same time to be killed by one of them. From the duel, Mok Yin loses all material desires, leaving Wan still dreaming on getting Chat Mut sword. Both men start to walk in the opposition direction till they meet again to realise what they have lost.

'The Sword' is a swordplay drama with thrilling action with great cinematography. Nothing compares to seeing a sword in Cheng's and Tsui’s hands. The directing and acting is also superb. Many moments are satisfying such as seeing Cheng's face when he learns that his beloved is married. Tsui is a convincing guy to come across as so menacing and heartless despite having dimples.

It all leads to a final battle that is possibly the greatest sword fight ever filmed. It is one of my top favourites ass the two Dai Haps throw in their best. They were so youthful and agile those days. The ending absolutely has to be seen. Both are remarkable swordsmen. They are magical performers to make the fighting scenes come alive. They are fast, bloody and also graceful.

The fighting scenes are amazing. It was ahead of its time. Despite the era in which it was made, it is gorgeously shot and the action scenes are quite wonderful. I feel that it is even better than present movies. It is a must have for sword fighting movie collectors.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : *** (Scale of 5)

On songs : ***** (Scale of 5)


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