The Storm Riders (Hong Kong, 1998)

In 1998, this live-action adaptation of the famous manhua (Chinese graphic comic) was groundbreaking in its use of visual effects and is just even more dominated by the performances of its ensemble cast.

Years ago, Lord Conquer began his quest to rule the martial world. However, a prophecy told him that a “wind” and a “cloud” would make him. He would travel and find the families of two youngsters, Striding Cloud and Whispering Wind and killing them before taking the two in himself. Having trained them for years, the duo become two of Conquest’s best warriors along with Frost. The two work very well together but they also pine for Charity, Conquest’s daughter.

After discovering the true prophecy, Conquest announces Wind will marry Charity, Cloud goes ballistic and is unhappy. At the wedding ceremony, Cloud crashes it and goes after Wind, demanding to take Charity with her. When Conquest’s attempt to interfere results in Charity’s accidental death, Wind and Cloud deem their brotherhood broken. Wind becomes a recluse while Cloud leaves Conquest, who has plans to take on the Sword Saint, the ultimate master of the martial world. When Wind and Cloud eventually learn the truth about their birth families, they must put aside their differences to stop the man who changed their lives forever.

This groundbreaking wuxia fantasy based on Ma Wing-Shing’s famous manhua has both some great martial arts, an amazing story about a prophecy, and some Hollywood-level visual effects that for its release in 1998, is nothing short of amazing. The film is elevated by the performances of its ensemble cast with two pop stars and actors leading the way along with a Japanese film legend.

Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng are excellent in their roles of Cloud and Wind. The fact they are “brothers” in some ways they couldn’t be any more polar opposites. Kwok’s Cloud is very serious, somewhat reckless, and strong-minded. As for Wind, he is strong but at the same time, is more level-headed and is more good natured. Kristy Yeung, as Charity, is the woman who comes between them and the once strong bond between our heroes is derailed in the wedding scene, with the two not realizing it was meant to be a set-up once Lord Conquer learns of the true prophecy.

The late great Sonny Chiba plays the evil Lord Conquer, whose aspirations to lead the martial world has its advantages and disadvantages. Chiba takes the role as a ruthless warrior who manipulates his way to get his way. Shu Qi provides great support as Muse, a young woman who finds and befriends Cloud in a pivotal moment after the wedding and becomes a vital part of Cloud’s story while Wind finds himself at a crossroads and forced to go his own path after ultimately feeling betrayed by Conquer.

Dion Lam’s action choreography is the stuff that is perfect for this brand of fantasy wuxia. Showcasing the different techniques of the characters really stand out with Wind engaging in swordfighting and kicking while Cloud is more of a swordfighter with crispy hand skills. Conquer is an all-around warrior who is hellbent on domination of the martial world and having trained the heroes, it is clear that his intentions are clear and the visual effects, by Centro Digital, just enhance the action and does it just right.

The Storm Riders is the quintessential 90’s fantasy wuxia film with its comic book inspiration and the performances of the ensemble cast. A must see for any fan of Hong Kong cinema.

WFG RATING: A

Golden Harvest presents a BoB & Partners Co Ltd. In association with Centro Digital Pictures Ltd. And Tian Shan Film Studio. Director: Andrew Lau. Producers: Manfred Wong and Li Zhu-An. Writer: Manfred Wong; based on the manhua by Ma Wing-Shing. Cinematography: Andrew Lau. Editing: Marco Mak and Danny Pang.

Cast: Aaron Kwok, Ekin Cheng, Sonny Chiba, Kristy Yeung, Michael Tse, Lawrence Cheng, Wayne Lai, Jason Chu, Shu Qi, Vincent Wan, Roy Cheung, Alex Fong, Yu Rongguang, Anthony Wong.

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