DVD REVIEW: THE SWORD IDENTITY / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: HAOFENG XU/ SCREENPLAY: HAOFENG XU / STARRING: CHENG- HUI YU, YANG SONG, YUANYUAN ZHAO, MA JUN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Marketed as a martial arts film, Haofeng Xu’s The Sword Identity is neither a flashy showstopper akin to House of Flying Daggers or a kinetic comedy in the style of a Stephen Chow flick. In fact, the exact point of The Sword Identity is still a bit of a mystery. All we know is that it’s definitely not Matt Damon wielding ancient Chinese blades across big city rooftops against the CIA. Unfortunately.
The story revolves, unsurprisingly, around the origins of a sword. Anyone wanting to establish a new brand of kung fu has to fight four families in the city of Guancheng who are regarded as the keepers of the art form. When Liang Henlu battles his way into the city and requests a competition, he is outcast by the Chinese for mistakenly owning a Japanese sword and is therefore forced to hide out among a group of gypsy dancers. From there, he ventures out to reveal the true identity of his mysterious weapon and show he has what it takes to fight the four families.
It’s not the most exciting plot on paper, and when you realise the film offers nothing to compensate, it soon descends into a trial of patience. Action scenes are crippled by wonky direction that’s more interested in the scenery. Dialogue exchanges rarely surpass the dull mark and the attempts at comedy are more bizarre than rib-tickling. A sub-plot entirely revolving around a strangely camp commander and his dream of wearing metal armour over his paper-laden garb is one such head-scratcher.
There are flashes of quality in the cinematography, which looks pleasant, with striking colour-drained backdrops, but that’s probably the only straw to be clutched at here. Devoid of thrills and generally any redeeming value, The Sword Identity is one riddle you won't want to solve.