ACTION; 1hr 49min (Mandarin with subtitles)
STARRING: Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Alex Fong, Betty Sun
Weapon of mass destruction: Yen
When you’re a soldier in China’s battle-plagued Han dynasty, where sword-to-sword combat cherry-picks scores of men, your life is “as transient as dreams and shadows,” only not nearly as poetic. In AD 200, with the conniving Lord Cao Cao (Wen) in control, survival is compromise. Having defeated his rival Liu Bei (Fong), Cao Cao holds Liu’s family captive. Among them is Guan Yu (Yen), pledged in brotherhood to Liu and a warrior of rare integrity and phenomenal tactical muscle. The warlord is mad keen to win him over but Guan’s unshakeable allegiance to Liu puts a hefty spoke in Cao Cao’s carved wooden wheels.
Although elaborately staged by writer-directors Alan Mak and Felix Chong (Infernal Affairs), with Yen directing the inexorable and top-throttle action sequences, The Lost Bladesman has a fresh energy — and a delicate-petal leading lady (Sun) as Liu Bei’s woman and Guan’s forbidden love. She’s a shrewd little jewel, but this is Yen’s shindig and he blazes a trail through it, slicing and dicing with the stern finesse of a master craftsman.