Also known as The Legend of the Swordsman
Ah, VHS. With the end of movie rental stores everywhere, I must regretfully say that my childhood video store Bae's Rincon Video in Santa Rosa, CA is finally coming to a close. They lasted longer than anticipated, I mean I literally know one place right now that still rents movies that isn't Netflix. Bae's was an awesome place when I first moved to Santa Rosa when I was about 13-14 years old, and I continued going until now, when they will close in April 2015. It's been a great 16 years I've been going (wow, that seems insanely long).
Anyways, Bae's apparently had a small cache of VHS leftover which they are now selling in addition to the DVDs in their "might as well sell it cause what the fuck are we going to do with it" sale. I picked up the most random VHS I could find, got 4 of them, and one of them was Swordsman II with Jet Li. A 90's martial arts film before Jet Li was famous and right after the release of the first Once Upon a Time in China film (which by the way, is an amazing movie). This is my first foray into the VHS films I bought.
This is the sequel to 1990's Swordsman, which did not have Jet Li in it, or any of the actors in this movie, and there's another sequel to this movie, Swordsman III: The East is Red - which also shares none of the actors. Which makes it slightly confusing, but then the plots aren't linked in any way so you can look at these movies as stand-alone's. I also have not seen either other Swordsman movie, just fyi.
The movie is slightly confusing, this is my preface for the plot synopsis and all my comments regarding it. It must be said that for the DVD release of this they most likely redid the subtitles, because they only loosely let you know what's going on; complete with bad grammar and spelling mistakes, and all that together adds to the confusing plot. Here are some gems from the subtitles, for your enjoyment:
"Life is like morning dew, it's hard for me to find a true friend."
"Don't let his discover that you're take."
"It's a pity that Ling's his Ying and Carol." (there is no one named Carol in the movie, obviously)
"The ship'd leave, hands off."
I love that first one because it's so insane. Life is like a morning dew, it's hard for me to find a true friend. Um, yeah, sure, bro, whatever you say? In context, some of these do make sense, but I just love subtitles like this. Ling's his Ying and Carol?? Who the fuck is Carol?! Where did they translate that from, is there even a Chinese word for the American name Carol? Note, Carol is capitalized in the subtitle, it's not like a song; a Christmas carol for example.
The plot is something like this: Jet Li just wants to drink wine and relax, but then some hottie he's attracted to is attacked by her evil uncle Fong who has mad martial arts skills, so Jet Li is going to help her. Turns out Fong has made an insane sacrifice to master martial arts and his evil group wants to basically just ruin everything. That's kind of the short version, the long version would just be confusing. But what happened is that Fong cut off his penis to attain martial arts prowess, and so he's transforming into a woman. That's a plot point. So, now you know.
The martial arts scenes are pretty cool. This is the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style of martial arts, where people can do insane stuff like balance on leaves, and jump 160 feet into the air, and run on flying boomerangs and such. Not my favorite type of martial arts, I prefer the more realistic kind like in Once Upon a Time in China, or the Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee movies. But this movie does it with a comedic approach, which is nice, and it's not as prevalent as CT,HD so that's good.
I liked this movie despite the confusing parts of it. It wasn't like, my favorite movie ever, but it's fun and it won't waste your time. It's got good acting, cool cinematography, and the subtitles were hilarious. Also, very memorable characters and interesting sensual scenes involving the guy turning into a woman. Slightly homoerotic, but still hoooot.
I'll give it like, 2.5 stars.