I recently watched Derek Yee and Tsui Hark’s Sword Master, a remake of Death Duel (1977). Even though I have not seen the original, I loved this one. They put a spectacularly modern twist on an obvious classic. I also watched it dubbed. What was I thinking, right? I don’t know. Blame it on anime. Anyway, I am happy to say that not only were the dubs tolerable, they were as close to natural as dubs can get.
Sword Master is down right cool to me. The premise is about a war-weary swordsman whose fire is just about out. Somehow it became more about the guy that’s become his self-proclaimed nemesis. Too often the bad guys are just bad with very little substance, but not in Sword Master. Kenney Lin plays assassin Yen Shisan, who is also an arrogant jerk with unmatched martial arts skills. Despite being an absolute savage, he was a funny and likable character. Is it wrong to want him to kill more people?
Opposite of Yen Shisan is Achi played by Peter Ho. Achi as the main character lacked blaze. His story had so much potential, but it felt like it was barely grazed. Were it not for Yen Shisan being so lively, I wonder if he could have been interesting at all. That’s no insult to Peter Ho whatsoever. Achi is in such an emotionally desolate place that I didn’t expect much until he experienced his moment of truth anyway. It’s just that Peter offered him so sincerely that I craved more from the character. I wish that Peter had been able to unleash the killer in Achi.
Even still, the swordplay scenes are uniquely interesting. There is a bit of romanticism mixed in with the violence and danger. When the swords clashed, it became an artistic melodramatic dance. It’s as impressive as it is bittersweet. Admittedly, I was a bit concerned about the CG in the opening scene and the character development could use some work, but again, it is a remake. To deviate too much from the original would basically be making a new movie. None of that matters anyway because the cinematography was practically immaculate. The best decision I could have ever made was to go back and watch with subtitles. Experiencing it in its original form solidified the awesome factor. Sword Master is visually, emotionally and mentally rewarding on top of being entertaining.
Sword Master is one for the collection. Pick up a copy on DVD or Blu-Ray starting April 11, 2017.