The One Armed Swordsman
Jimmy Wang Yu is an essential actor when it comes to viewing Hong Kong movies. Whilst his fight choreography wasn’t as sharp or mature as others the films he made were highly entertaining and he knew how to give the best bang for the buck. He rose to fame in Kung Fu movies coming before Bruce Lee appeared on the scene and paved the way for future Kung Fu action movie stars.
In The One Armed Swordsman, Fang Gang, a highly skilled sword-fighter runs away from his school and loses his arm because of a jealous female student. Women… After almost being killed he is found by a farm girl who nurses him back to health and the two fall in love. Meanwhile his school is destroyed by a rival school that has developed a weapon that can catch long bladed sword. Fortunately for our one armed hero he has a broken sword that can’t be caught in the weapons grasp. He also finds a half burnt sword fighting manual that conveniently only has the left side sword fighting moves remaining on it’s pages meaning he can only train with his left arm. Very convenient indeed. You can see where all this is heading but it’s still worth watching. It does drag a bit in places and can at times make you giggle at the most inappropriate scenes.
Return of the One Armed Swordsman is very much full on action which makes it slightly more entertaining than the first since we can get on with a more mature reassured character who wants to live a peaceful life yet knows how to cut people up in style when he has to. Of course the wackiness and high stakes wouldn’t be complete without a new weapon that can possibly defeat the one armed swordsman and his short blade. This time round it’s an unseen blade that can grow longer.
Unfortunately after breaking his contract with Shaw Brothers this was the last standalone One Armed Swordsman movie featuring Wang Yu.
Zatoichi Vs The One Armed Swordsman
Title says it all really doesn’t it? How fortunate are we to have a film crossover such as this to discover. The story is fairly simple and as usual whoever Zatoichi befriends he usually ends up fighting and killing. Guy can’t get a break. The poor ole One Armed Swordsman too has had enough of bloodshed in his home country and has traveled to Japan to make a new start. Due to cultural misunderstandings with some very corrupt Japanese officials and a lot of over reacting by those officials the crap hits the fan and the peace these characters both seek is gone in the flash of a sword. While at first Zatoichi and the One Armed Swordsman are friends and develop a mutual respect they are slowly played off against each other with Zatoichi being framed. Not being able to understand one another there is an epic showdown between the two.
The feats of the One Armed Swordsman are a little bit tamer in the more realistic world of Zatoichi, which I like. I like the sensibilities applied to the character here and would have loved it if this had become an ongoing series of the One Armed Swordsman in Japan. The clash of Japan and China is dealt with in a very sensible way without the need for either character to display xenophobic traits and it shows that “real heroes” are above that kind of sh*t. They both live in a world where they are looked down on for their disabilities yet are both able to rise above it through martial arts skills and self discipline.
The New One Armed Swordsman is a very different character to Jimmy Wang’s. First of all he cuts his own arm off after losing a fight. The character goes from an arrogant hero to a far more humble one who hides his true strength. He doesn’t need to retrain himself. His skill remains but he refuses to use it due to losing the fight at the beginning. I like that we have a hero who is not unsure of his skill but is conflicted about using it. Even at the end of the movie when he rides off for a final showdown with the big bad he isn’t even sure if he will win, he just says he will fight even if it means he’ll die. The fights in this film are pretty great and very fast paced, not to mention, bloody. It gets really ramped up near the end with some quite intense scenes. There’s even a small bit of James Bond music thrown in for good measure.
The One Armed Swordsmen
Well, why not? The two one armed swordsmen together could be like a modern day Batman Vs Superman or Jason Bourne Vs that other guy who was in that other Bourne movie. As an unofficial sequel it’s not the best film among the One-Armed Swordman series but the real pull here is seeing Jimmy Wang Yu against David Chiang. After some verbal sparring and eating (yes, eating) the two finally fight. Although it’s a short lived fight it’s akin to a western show down with swords instead of guns. Pretty cool. But the bulk of the story is about finding a murderer as mystery builds upon mystery leading the two One Armed Swordsmen to even take on the Monks of the Shaolin Temple. It’s not as interesting as it sounds and I think if the two heroic fighters had remained antagonists like in Zatoichi Vs The One Armed Swordsman it might have been a more interesting movie to watch. But really the main reason to watch it is not for the plot or action but just because it has the two one armed swordsmen.
This overly bleak and dark remake of the original One Armed Swordsman was not to my tastes nor the rest of Hong Kong’s audiences it seems. It’s comes across as trying to be to edgy and dark for the sake of differentiate itself from the original. It lacks charm and the characters I found to be dull. The action was somewhat captivating and I have no doubt Tsui Hark’s heart was in the right place when he was making this.
There has been talks of more remakes. In 2007 ‘Tears of the Black Tiger’ Director Wisit Sasantieng had been reportedly planning a remake called ‘Armful’ (which I would love to see). Most recently a Korean remake was reported in 2009 to be Directed by ‘Musa’ Director Sung-su Kim, but since then there’s been no more news on either of these. It’s only a matter of time before one does come along though.
‘Armful’ Concept Poster
Favorite Quote: “Reprisal only breeds reprisal.” – Xiao Man