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Flying Swords of Dragon Gate chinese movie review
Completed
Flying Swords of Dragon Gate
3 people found this review helpful
by The Butterfly
Mar 6, 2024
Completed 1
Overall 6.5
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 6.5

Stellar cast let down by mediocre writing and even worse special effects

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate was a remake of a remake. After watching it, I’m pretty convinced that was at least one remake too many. In lieu of quality martial arts fights, Tsui Hark buried the film in bad CGI and mediocre storytelling.

It’s the Ming Dynasty which means the evil eunuchs are running amok. Zhao Huaian and his spunky rebels seek to take down the eunuchs and rescue the falsely accused. At the same time, a maid who was unfortunate enough to get impregnated by the emperor is on the run. Fear not! Eunuch Yu the head of the diabolical Western Bureau vows to have her hunted down and killed. A keen multi-tasker he is also determined to be rid of Zhao. The annoying maid is rescued by a female swordswoman and escorted to the Dragon Gate Inn in order to avoid a deadly sandstorm. The inn becomes overly crowded with a group of rowdy Tartars, Eunuch Yu’s men, and a dead ringer for Yu named Wind Blade. Eventually, Zhao shows up as well because the inn in the middle of nowhere is a magnet for killers and heroes alike. Everyone has their reason for being there and hidden treasure buried in the desert makes strange bedfellows with unlikely alliances.

This movie was 2 hours long but felt closer to 2 days. With the exception of the female Tartar warrior, none of the characters were particularly engaging. Aside from Burudu, I didn’t really care if any of them walked away from the inn where you did NOT want to be served “white” meat. Chen Kun played dual roles, but even he couldn’t save the lackluster writing. Jet Li acted bored as well. On the positive side the film had four accomplished female fighters. I was also happy to see old school kung fu movie star Gordon Liu in a guest role as one of the power hungry eunuchs brief as it was.

The film lacked character development and urgency for a story set in the only dwelling on the edge of nowhere filled with people wanting to kill each other. What could have been a tense claustrophobic thriller dragged on relentlessly with very little movement. The eunuch’s doppelgänger element was talked about more than used effectively. The romance clumsily wedged into the story was feeble at best. Five black sand tornadoes did little to liven things up.

Aside from the uninspired storytelling, what ruined this film for me was the terrible, and I mean atrocious CGI. The fights were ridiculously bad and completely reliant on CGI and green screens. The green screens were obvious as well. Nothing appeared real including the CGI actors that often bounced around. The sped up fake and real people fighting moved awkwardly instead of fluidly. Jet Li and Chen Kun’s fight in a tornado hurt my eyes there were so many bad effects going on. I kept expecting to see the woman riding her bike in the twister from The Wizard of Oz blow by. That’s not even taking into effect how fights were sped up and characters were thrown like paper airplanes. Most Wuxias in actual historical settings have some actions grounded in reality. People had limitless daggers stashed away in their sleeves. How their sleeves weren’t dragging the ground, I’ll never understand. Originally filmed for 3D, many of those daggers were hurled straight at the screen.

I enjoyed King Hu’s 1967 original Dragon Gate Inn no matter that the sword fights were primitive by today’s standards. At least they weren’t blurred and sped up to a ridiculous rate. I am a fan of Jet Li, Chen Kun, and Zhou Xun and I really wanted to like this film. The film ran too long, was narratively a mess, and relied too heavily on special effects instead of quality fight choreography. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate deserved to be buried in the sand.

5 March 2024
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