A Warrior's Tragedy (1993)

8/10 - Delirious & visually impressive wuxia piece
Reviewed by Simon on 26 February 2008

I've seen at least 4 different versions of this, ranging anywhere from 90 minutes to 150! I've *still* not seen one that contains everything though - even the double laserdisc release is missing some footage that's in other versions.

The movie is a fairly lavish wuxia piece filmed in some great desert locations, featuring Ti Lung and director Frankie Chan as swordsmen who are invited to "Man Ma Hall" by an elderly swordsman with evil looking eyebrows. Much intrigue follows as we learn the historys of the swordsmen, and of a clash between Man Ma Hall and Super Sword Hall many years ago that left many dead. Anita Yuen turns up half-way through as Frankie's bell-laden wife.

Frankie Chan handles this colourful tale well, bouncing back and forth between comedic moments, surreal moments and some quite dramatic moments at will. The long running time gives Frankie plenty of time to develop the plot and the characters, and to space out the revelation of plot points to keep intrigue high. The film seems to be shot in Northern China, and makes good use of some beautiful locations. There's also lots of opportunities for action, with some cool and inventive wirework - though it looks a little amateurish in places - and some great cinematography. The action scenes are in a fairly Ching Siu-Tung style, with some great set pieces.

There's much to be enjoyed in this film, which is probably Frankie Chan's most accomplished directorial work. Unfortunately his vanity does show up a bit again, with his character being just a little too charming, smart, cool and talented for us not to feel that Frankie is attention-seeking. Ti Lung is fantastic in a very stoic role, but Anita Yuen steals most of her scenes with a manically over-the-top performance (perhaps why she was edited out of all the edits I've seen to some degree - taking too much of Frankie's spotlight?).

It's a shame it's not currently possible to see the whole, unedited film in any commercially format. I'd estimate that there's about 160 minutes of footage in total, which does all flow together when it's edited properly. It'd be great if Hong Kong Legends dug out the original film, restored and remastered and released it in a premium edition as part of a "Frankie Chan Collection". It's also extremely unlikely that will happen :p

Oh well, it's nice to have these rareties for collectors to long for and discuss - the world would be dull if we had instant access to everything we wanted!

Cast

Frankie Chan
Ti Lung
Ida Chan
Anita Yuen
Fennie Yuen
Julian Cheung
Gallen Lo
Fung Hak-On
Xie Miao

Crew

Director
Frankie Chan
Writer
Frankie Chan
Soundtrack
Roel A. Garcia

See also