2016, Distribution Workshop/Bona Film Group/Wanda Pictures
Gu Long (original novel “The Third Master’s Sword”)
Chun Tin-Nam (screenplay)
Tsui Hark (screenplay)
Derek Yee (screenplay)
Kenny Lin (Useless Chi/Hsieh Shao-Feng)
Peter Ho (Yen Shih-San)
Jiang Mengjie (Hsiao Li)
Jiang Yiyan (Chiu-Ti)
Edward Gu (Chu)
Norman Chu (Leader Hsieh)
Nina Paw (Hsiao Li’s Mother)
Gu Long’s novel gets a second adaptation after 1977’s Death Duel with that film’s star taking the reigns as co-writer and director.
The tattooed-faced assassin Yen Shih-San has been traveling looking for the Third Master named Hsieh Shao-Feng. After a meeting with Shao-Feng’s betrothed Chiu-Ti, Yen meets with the Shao-Feng’s father, the leader of the clan. He has learned that Shao-Feng had been missing for over a month now and is believed to be dead. This angers Yen because he is dying and his final wish is to have a duel with the now late master of the martial world.
However, Shao-Feng is not dead. Grown tired of the martial life, he now lives as an errand boy in a local brother and goes by the name Useless Chi. When Chi saves a young worker, Hsiao-Li from some local thugs by taking their attack like nothing, Li suspects Chi may not be as “useless” as everyone else suspects. When Li and Chi decide to leave the brothel and return to Li’s small village, the brothel’s big boss decides to send his men to go after her. Led by Nameless, the assault is stopped by the visiting Yen, who decides to live the rest of his short life fighting for justice and trains Chi in his 13-Sword style. However, what will happen when he learns that his new protégé is actually the man he is destined to duel with?
In 1977, the Shaw Brothers adapted the novel “The Third Master’s Story” and created Death Duel, directed by Police Story villain Chor Yuen and starring Derek Yee as the Third Master with Ling Yun playing the assassin whose wish is to have a duel with the Third Master. Flash forward nearly three decades later and Yee now takes the reigns directing this remake with the help of producer and co-writer Tsui Hark, who has been on a bit of a resurgence of late. Updating the story a bit by revamping some of the major characters, this can actually said to be a worthy remake.
Replacing Yee is Kenny Lin, who brings in a more rugged look in the role of brothel worker Useless Chi, who is actually the long lost Third Master who just wants to grow a hermatic life because he no longer wants to be a part of the martial world. However, it is his destiny and eventually, he will have to face his past to move on towards his future. The other major character is the reformed assassin Yen Shih-San, now played with Peter Ho. Ho sports an intriguing look, with what is revealed to be a tattooed face that makes him look like a zombie and may come off as a villain based on his looks. However, he truly brings something more to the table, even having a cute scene with some local village kids that show that Yen isn’t completely a bad guy.
The action choreography by Yuen Bun and Dion Lam is that of the typical wuxia pian. There are loads of slashing and flying and for this film, it works quite well. Even with the intricate plot twists thrown in, they set up some pretty good action scenes that all culminate in an exhilarating final duel between Ho and Lin for this brand of film.
Sword Master is a worthy updated remake of Death Duel, itself an adaptation of the Gu Long novel. Kenny Lin and Peter Ho drives the film with some intricate twists to the plot and some pretty good wuxia-style action. Definitely helps producer Tsui Hark in terms of his resurgence and another notch for Derek Yee as an ample director.
WFG RATING: A-
Well Go USA Home Entertainment will be releasing this film on a Blu-Ray+DVD duo on April 11. Special features include the trailer for this film and the trailer for Call of Heroes as well as a featurette entitled “Mastering the Sword”. To order your copy of the film, click on the image below: