HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
First Love
Countess from Hong Kong, A
Storm Boy
Storm Boy
Frozen II
White Sheik, The
Whalebone Box, The
Hunt, The
Invisible Man, The
Honey Boy
System Crasher
Judy & Punch
Bacurau
Battling Butler
Vivarium
Seven Chances
Dogs Don't Wear Pants
Navigator, The
Knives Out
Hit!
Charlie's Angels
Passport to Shame
Le Mans '66
Keep Fit
Doctor Sleep
Friend or Foe
Brass Target
Mine and the Minotaur, The
Sky Pirates
Syncopation
Sea Children, The
Ghost of a Chance, A
Go Kart Go
Great Buster, The
Seventy Deadly Pills
Wings of Mystery
Treasure at the Mill
VFW
Crime Wave
Terminator: Dark Fate
   
 
Newest Articles
The End of Civilisation as We Know It: The 50th Anniversary
The Whalebone Box: The Andrew Kotting Interview
Being Human: The Elephant Man on 4K UHD Blu-ray
It's! Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 3 on Blu-ray
Put the Boot In: Villain on Blu-ray
The Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 2: Vic Pratt Interview
All the Lonely People: Sunday Bloody Sunday on Blu-ray
Desperate Characters: Beat the Devil on Blu-ray
Chansons d'Amour: Alfie Darling on Blu-ray
Ozploitation Icon: Interview with Roger Ward
Godzilla Goes to Hollywood
Demy-Wave: The Essential Jacques Demy on Blu-ray
The Makings of a Winner: Play It Cool! on Blu-ray
Sony Channel's Before They Were Famous: A Galaxy of Stars
Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb: Fail-Safe on Blu-ray
Completely Different: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 2 on Blu-ray
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
   
 
  Assassin, The The Emperor must die
Year: 1967
Director: Chang Cheh
Stars: Jimmy Wang Yu, Chiao Chiao, Lee Heung-Gwan, Tien Feng, Wong Chung-Shun, Cliff Lok, Lam Jing, Fang Mian, Cheung Pooi-Saan, Cheng Lui, Wang Kuang-Yu, Ma Ying, Chiu Sam-Yin, Wong Ching-Ho, Woo Tung, Lau Gong, Yau Lung
Genre: Drama, Martial Arts, Historical, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Fresh off their groundbreaking success with One-Armed Swordsman (1967), Shaw Brothers re-teamed writer-director Chang Cheh with iconic star Jimmy Wang Yu for The Assassin. More than two-thousand years ago during China’s “warring states period”, numerous city-state kingdoms were consolidated into seven major states, along with a few minor enclaves. Wealthy warlords vied for power, aiming to unite China under their iron fist. At the palace of the Han emperor (Cliff Lok), scheming prime minister Han Kui (Wong Chung-Shun) suggests they should betray their own people to the Qing invaders in return for a share in the new empire. But the boy ruler prefers the sagely council of Yen Chung Tzu (Tien Feng). Enraged, Han Kui stages a secret attack on Tzu’s family.

Meanwhile, miles away from the corrupt Han court, wise Master Wu Ji (Fang Mian) runs a school for righteous swordsmen, stressing the ideals of honour, valour and decency. His prized pupil is Nieh Zheng (Jimmy Wang Yu), who defends his ladylove Xia Ying (Chiao Chiao) against the lewd advances of rich boy, Xu Shi (Cheung Pooi-Saan). Expelled for dirty fighting, Xu betrays Master Wu to the prime minister whose killers murder the old man and slaughter his students. All except for Nieh Zheng who single-handedly trounces the enemy. Years after taking revenge on Xu Shi, Nieh Zheng is living as a humble butcher when Yen Chung Tzu arrives and offers him a fortune in gold for a deadly assignment. Zheng’s mother (Lam Ying) convinces him not to go, but a few years after she dies and his loyal sister (Cheng Lui) has married, the swordsman agrees to set out on a suicide mission.

Some readers may spot a few plot parallels between this film and Zhang Yimou’s acclaimed masterpiece: Hero (2003). Both movies were inspired by the story of a great swordsman who attempted to assassinate the First Emperor of China. It is a popular fable amongst the Chinese even though it essentially boils down to the story of a man who dithered for ages over whether to kill the Qing Emperor, then failed to do so. However, Chang Cheh tweaks the target of Nieh Zheng’s wrath and reworks the historical drama into an affirmation of his own manly ideals. One best embodied by that old John Wayne adage: “a man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do.”

As so often in Chang’s films, women are, somewhat objectionably it must be said, portrayed as a hindrance to those out to do good in this world. Both Xia Ying and Zheng’s mother believe it is better to live in peace than to take a stand for what is right. “Give up these dreams. Be content with what we are”, urges Xia Ying, only for Zheng to argue: “It would be wonderful to die a hero’s death and save the country.” In our troubled times it might sound perverse to commend a movie that so unabashedly valorises a suicidal assassin, but The Assassin outlines its argument intelligently with great poetry and skill. It remains one of the rare Chang Cheh/Shaw Brothers epics as concerned with character and drama as action and spectacle. Domesticity drives Zheng to become an embittered alcoholic until Yen Chung Tzu puts a sword back in his hand, allowing him a chance to protest an injustice. Some of the film’s sloganeering (“The only way to achieve our ambitions is to die for them”) is debatable to say the least, but on a human level it is moving watching Zheng shower his beloved with gifts, knowing he will never return. The action, choreographed Liu Chia-liang (a great director in his own right), is largely confined to the third act, wherein our man Jimmy explodes into righteous fury killing literally hundreds of villainous soldiers.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 3536 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
  Butch Elliot
Andrew Pragasam
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton
   

 

Last Updated: