The Sword Identity – 2011
As a martial art film fan I get to see many films in the genre, but how many of those films delve into the realm of realistic training utilising the evasion techniques of the art?
Now I'm not talking about the classic films from Shaw or Golden Harvest which centred around various styles and there combative techniques against each other , those films though ultra dynamic are not something you could put into realistic combat today.
You just don't get people fighting each other in the street using snake style against praying mantis , for one it would look quite strange and be pretty comical to be honest.
The Sword Identity is a film by Chinese director Xu Haofeng from 2011 , Xu has attempted to showcase how two combatants would actually face of against each other much like in a boxing match or any modern martial art tournament you might view.
It's also a film which from what I can see has been maligned in many comments and reviews ,probably by mostly people that have never taken part in a combative sport.
These viewers probably believe that it is possible for Tony Jaa or Donnie Yen to wash a path through fifty or hundred combative foe and survive. Yes these films are great to watch and I myself love them as much as the next viewer for their entertainment value.
But like many who know combative arts I understand the goal Xu Haofeng was trying to portray in Sword Identity. The film focuses on the feinting or shall we say chess like tactics used between two combatants going head to head with each other.
Now being a film set in the Ming Dynasty it focuses on swordplay for most part. Set in a southern Chinese city it evolves around a group of four families that keep the Chinese martial arts pure with their individual styles. Each run their own school of arts.
Now if someone wants to establish a new school they have to confront each of the schools and fight their way in to be allowed to set up a new school.
But when two men arrive in town wielding what the locals believe to be a Japanese Sword the schools are alerted.
As the men make their way to the schools area they challenge each school but are rejected because of their Japanese like weapons and are labelled spies.
With one man captured and one on the run the locals masters and the local authority go on the hunt for the supposed spy.
To be honest the story is just a catalyst for showcasing the combat within the film. Our man on the run Liang takes refuge with some gypsy dancers .Where he holds up and fends of his foe.
A local master by the name of Qui Dongyue ( Yu Chenghui) who has not been around for a while due to self exile revisits the town to confront Liang .
But as Liang demonstrates his prowess with his weapon and repeatedly foiling the local militia and martial art masters at their own game the masters start to have doubt's about their judgements and if they where right about Liang and his friend. .
Like I said the story is only part of the film and it's ironic when the truth about Liang and his weapon become apparent .
Xu Haofeng has crafted a intriguing film which gives a good insight to combative arts , with the inclusion of Yu Chenghui as Qui Dongyue it adds a touch of nostalgia to the film as Yu is a wushu master and featured in the Shaolin temple films and more recently in the 2008 series The Legend of Bruce Lee where he portrayed Yip Man and Gordon Chan's 2014 film The Four III.
As for Xu Haofeng who wrote and directed the film as well as doing the fight action is also responsible for the script for Wong Kar-Wai's film about Ip Man , The Grandmasters.
I wonder after watching this if Xu had directed that film as well if it would have fared better against the competition.
Sword Identity is a must see for martial art fans that understand combative arts, the action scenes are fresh and our young hero of the film portrays some blistering sword play which is a joy to view.
I had seen the trailers for the film on a another action film and was intrigued by the film , after seeing some of the views about the film on other sites I was even more interested in seeing the film as some seemed to hate it while others loved it .
I my self can not say I thought the film was brilliant ,but I enjoyed it for it's nuances and it's foray into showcasing the arts in a realistic manner . I liked the characters of the film and the way Qui DongYue had a respect for his foe, also the militia commander brought a much needed light heart feel to the film at times.
Sword Identity is a very good film and more enjoyable then The Grandmasters , because in the end the base for any martial arts film is that it's fun to watch the action scenes ,something Wong Kar Wai failed to portray In his film due to his overly arty style.
Xu Haofeng seemed to balance it right without ruining the action viewing in Sword Identity and I look forward to his next screen adaptation.
Score out of Ten = 8
Reviewed by Sertes Nake
|Directed by||Xu Haofeng|
|Release dates|| |
September 11, 2011 (Toronto International Film Festival)
February 24, 2012 (China)
|Running time||108 minutes|
Song Yang as Liang
Yu Chenghui as Qui DongYui
YuanYaun Zhao as Madam Qui
Ma Jun as Master Qie
Xu Fujing as Sai Lan
Ma Ke as Gan Gang
Zhexin Liu as General Lui Kai
Yao Weiping as Qui's Deputy Commander
Ou Keqin as Master Cai
Li Guisheng as Master Wang
Bing Bo as Master Lu