The writers of the Infernal Affairs trilogy and action star Donnie Yen bring the story of Three Kingdom warrior Guan Yu to life in this pretty exciting historical epic.
Guan Yuncheng was one of Liu Bei’s greatest generals in the Shu Kingdom during the warrior periods of the Three Kingdoms. However, when he is held prisoner by Cao Cao, the powerful general working for the Emperor, Guan is given a chance to be free when Cao Cao asks for his help in defeating General Yan Liang. To earn his freedom, Guan leads a cavalry and eventually defeats Yan Liang. Aside from his freedom, Guan is given the title of Marquis, which he somewhat refuses because of his loyalty to Liu Bei.
In an effort to make Guan defect to the empire, Cao Cao has Guan’s food poisoned temporarily and has also kidnapped Qilan, a young woman who is betrothed to be Liu Bei’s third wife yet has feelings for Guan. When Guan decides to leave anyway, Cao Cao lets him leave. Instead, when Guan and Qilan are en route to rejoin Liu Bei, Guan learns the truth that he has become a wanted man. Having no other choice but to face the emperor’s top generals, Guan must rely on his skills to defeat them, knowing eventually he will have to face Cao Cao.
Action star Donnie Yen is truly versatile when it comes to action films. He has done modern day, classic kung fu, and historical epic. Since playing the iconic Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, Yen has been taking roles that allow him to not only stretch his action muscle, but his acting muscle as well. Yen does quite well in the role of Guan Yuncheng, aka Guan Yu, the future “God of Righteousness”, who is seen as a warrior who just wants to do right. His actions are seen as chivalrous and deadly at the same time, even going as far as earning the respect of his most feared enemy. The role allows Yen to play Guan as both strong and humble at the same time, showing his strength when he fights, but when others compliment him, he takes it humbly and just sees himself as someone who wants to do right.
Jiang Wen, a filmmaker in his own right, brings Cao Cao as a general who is not sadistically evil, but one who knows of his power and brings a more nonchalant view of what he envisions the world to be after he has hopes to unite them. Despite their rivalry in their factions, it is clear this Cao Cao sees Guan Yu as a highly respected warrior and even when Guan makes the decision not to join him and return to Liu Bei out of loyalty, Cao may be responsible for sending the other generals to kill him, but respects his decision and sees if Guan is truly the respected warrior he is seen to be. As for Sun Li’s Qilan, she may be seen as a damsel in distress type, but is strong willed and knows her loyalties, even going off on Guan when she learns that he had helped Cao Cao in her first scene of the film.
The action sequences were done by Yen, who by now, is happy with sharing the spotlight when it comes to action, even if he is the one who has to emerge victoriously. Despite an all-too brief cameo by Chin Siu-Ho that ends before it begins, one of Yen’s best action sequences pits him against Andy On, who plays General Kong Xiu. In a nod to the likes of the classic Martial Club and Once Upon a Time in China II (which Yen played villain to Jet Li), Yen and On have an amazing weapon fight in a narrow hallway like structure with Yen using the Kwan Dao against On’s spear technique. It is clear that On, who had learned martial arts for film for just about a decade at the time, has learnt well and is impressive. This is why Yen handpicked On to take him on as the villain of Special ID three years later. Yen also gets to take on a group of archers singlehandedly by evading their arrows and then using both crossbow and sword against them in a very nicely executed battle scene. And for why one would wonder why the Guan Yu statues depict him in red, a theory can be seen here.
The Lost Bladesman is a film that once again proves Yen is a bankable actor alongside his exciting action, which delve into the historical epic, which sees the normally villainous Cao Cao in a different light of sorts, respecting Guan Yu as a humble warrior. Definitely one to check out, especially Donnie Yen fans.
WFG RATING: A-
A Star Union Skykee International Media Limited/Shanghai Film Group Co. Ltd./Anhui Media Group Co. Ltd. production. Directors: Alan Mak and Felix Chong. Producer: Liang Tang. Writers: Alan Mak and Felix Chong. Cinematography: Chan Chi-Ying. Editing: Kong Chi-Leung.
Cast: Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Sun Li, Alex Fong, Shao Bing, Andy On, Wang Xuebing, Edison Wang, Dong Yong, Li Zong-Han, Chin Siu-Ho, Zhou Bo, Yu Ailei.