41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
"The Legend of the Shadowless Sword" would be considered among the greatest wuxia epics of our time but for one little detail: the world has already experienced the unspeakable brilliance of films like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And make no mistake, this film is Korea's attempt to duplicate the success of these modern classics both artistically and financially. The result is an almost-great film steeped in female empowerment, classic martial-arts philosophy, and Korean history that only missed classic status by a decade or so.
First off, let me say that the leading ladies of "Shadowless" are amazing. Yun So-i is brilliant as Soha, a female warrior tasked with bringing an exiled prince back home after an organization known as The Killer Blade Army murders the entirety of the royal family, leaving him as the only successor to the throne. Soha and the prince, Jeong-Heyon (played by Lee Seo-jin) who is also quite the fighter, are tracked and ambushed by the Killer Blades led by a seriously vamped-out lady killer. The confrontations between the opposing sword-wielding visions of beauty provide some seriously exciting duels that are on par with the best of the genre.
The heart of the story largely focuses on the classical myth/philosophy of Asian swordplay that each blade has within it an evil spirit that gathers strength as it drinks human blood. This spirit is said to be able to envelope and consume it's user once it gathers enough strength through death and suffering. This is a fantastic metaphor for the effect taking a life has on a person's being. What better way to kill one's own soul than by slaughtering so many as to becomes altogether indifferent to suffering? This is the essence of evil. Soho's philosophy -bequeathed to her at a young age by a passing hero- is that if the sword is taken up only to protect that which is precious and not to do harm that the shade within will gain no power from the act of killing. Thus, a righteous warrior has a shadowless sword.
The coolest thing about "Shadowless" is arguably the costumes. Every scene features some of the most visually interesting outfits and uniforms I've ever seen in this kind of film. Big thumbs up on that. The movie itself looks wonderful and very polished, though many of the scenes feel like retreads of previous wuxia films. There is an interesting underwater battle that could have been brilliant if not for the ridiculous sight of dozens of ninjas sailing over the river throwing hundreds of shurikens into the water for several minutes on end. How many of those things do they keep on them at one time anyways? There are some other over-the-top moments that may make one think of Fist of the North Star and the delayed explosions that resulted from the combat in that classic anime cheesefest. But timed detonations somehow make even less sense when they are inflicted by a sword. What, chopping a guy's head off or bisecting him at the waist or even vertically isn't good enough anymore? These are a few of the problems that keep "The Legend of the Shadowless Sword" out of the same league as the modern works of art it emulates. The love story is unconvincing after having seen the incredible beauty of House of Flying Daggers, and the fights -while highly entertaining- are simply not as good as those in "Crouching Tiger".
In spite of it's few flaws, I would qualify "The Legend of the Shadowless Sword" as a must-see for fans of martial-arts or Asian cinema in general. This one won't enjoy the crossover appeal of the movies I name-checked earlier, but it should thoroughly satisfy fans of the wuxia genre. Not perfect, but worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Shadowless Sword is the second film effort by the director of Bichunmoo. In my opinion, it may have surpassed the first film or at least equal to it.
This film revolves around the story of 2 feuding noble families, the House of Bael has been on the receiving end of violent attacks by the Killer Blade army. Almost all of the Royal Family have murdered by the leader of the Killer Blade army, except one. A prince who went into hiding because he believed himself unworthy of royalty because he felt like there is nothing that can be done of the strife in his country. It is up to a female warrior called Soha to convince him to lay his claim upon the throne. Which it turns out harder than it seems that the remaining heir does not want to become King. The prince served in his father's military and there is a link/bond between the prince and his female protector. The villain is evil enough that audinces can dispise him at the same time pity him, yes, even the villain has his own "justified motivation". The action starts when the bad guys start pursuing the good guys.
The action is impressive. as in most korean martial arts films, it has an influence of Crouching tiger Hidden Dragon, but believe me when I say it can stand on its own. The swordfights are well choreographed, Woon So-yi (from Arahan)can move as gracefully as any ballerina. The underwater scenes are well-shot and the sword fighting is well-paced. Unlike other Korean action films like Natural City, there is hardly any slow-mo.
I'm not sure what they are selling in amazon, but it is probably a Malaysian/Taiwan copy. Just be careful, the quality of these dvds sometimes is not as good as the original imported ones, which is why they are cheap. Sometimes they may freeze a scene when played in most stand alone dvd players. I think these discs only try to fool the player so it can be played. The dvd I have is the 2 disc region 3 version with DTS audio. Since New Line Cinema invested in this Korean flick, I'm pretty sure there will be a region 1 version.
Shadowless Sword is a very good film if you enjoyed HERO, AZUMI and SHINOBI. However, as with Shinobi and Azumi the imported region 3 versions are phenomenal, the video/audio quality far surpasses the ones made from Taiwan/Malaysia. Try to get the originals if you can play them on your players, if not, just don't miss this film.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
During the Korean New wave, the country has come out with real phenomenal dramas, horror, and a few swordplay epics. Two of the more successful films of Korean epics are the terrific Period adventure film "Musa the Warrior" and the Wuxia Fantasy Epic "Bichunmoo". There have also been other attempts to produce a Wuxia epic and most of them are either a hit or a miss. "Shadowless Sword" (aka. Muyeong Geom, retitled "Legend of Shadowless Sword") is from Kim Yung-jun, the same director of "Bichunmoo". This film fares a lot better when in regards to screenplay and action sequences compared to Kim`s first Wuxia film. The direction is much more coherent and solid this time. Action Junkies will certainly be entertained with this film, even though it was released 3 years ago in 2005 (despite New Line has invested in this film, it is now only getting a U.S. release?), the film still stands as one of the most entertaining Wuxia epics I've seen from South Korea.
10th century Korea, the Balhae Dynasty have all but fallen due to an invasion. Resistance fighters are hard pressed to find a new leader when all members of the Royal family have perished save one; Prince Jeong Hyeon (Seo Jin Lee). To avoid attention, a lone female warrior named Soha (Yoon So-yi, ARAHAN) is dispatched to find the Prince. Unbeknownst to her, the self-exiled Prince has become a dealer of used goods and have no intensions of returning to royalty. To make matters more complicated, the Killer Blade Army led by Gun Hwa-Pyeong (Hyeong Jun-Shin) with his second in command; lovely Mae (Ki-Yong Lee) is also on the trail of the Prince to assassinate him. Soha must convince the wayward prince just how important he is to her country's fate, awaken his fighting skills and protect him from the Killer Blade army.
While "Bichunmoo" had a more intricate storyline, its script was almost impossible to follow. Kim Yung-jun's second film has a larger budget and his directorial skills seems to have been honed. "Shadowless Sword" (I prefer to call it by its original title) has a simple storyline and is very predictable. No surprises can be had with this film, the film is actually a chase film; the two leads are being pursued all over while fighting their way back to Balhae. The usual formulas are omnipresent, Soha and Prince Jeong find each other; they bond and learn to care for each other with the usual twists in their past relationship. Its predictability may be somewhat disappointing if one is expecting a more complex script. However, the two leads are well-developed and the film's pace and style is mesmerizing enough that the film is never dull and boring.
The film's main draw and its greatest strength will have to its nicely executed swordplay and fight sequences. There are lots of nifty forest battles and a nicely shot underwater fight (although this may require a suspension of disbelief). The encounters between women-warriors Soha and Mae are truly exciting and quite enchanting. Their fights are beautifully shot, well-choreographed and intense. It was no accident that So-yi Yoon was cast as our female heroine after her performance in the action-fantasy "Arahan". The actress is charismatic, agile and once again proves that she is capable in the film's physical aspects. Lee Ki-Yong also proves a worthy rival, she is in every way Soha's equal in martial arts skills. The film has a lot of fights and cool poses; even shurikens are thrown, high-flying Martial Arts are the film's style of fighting and rivals those seen in some of the best Chinese Wuxia epics. I've noticed that Korean filmmakers have started to evolve their own 'stylized' blood splattering effects, this time with a lot of "explosive" attitude.
While Yoon So-yi and Lee Ki-yong does undoubtedly steal the show, the main villain, played by Hyeong Jun Shin (Bichunmoo) is an almost identical twin to the villain in "Gingko Bed". I'm not sure, the actor does a decent job with his character overall, but something about the `eye-liner' just turns me off. Gun Hwa-Pyeong is more than a one-dimensional villain, his goals and motives are actually one that can generate sympathy but I suppose there are men who can pull off `mascara' and there are those who can't. Seo jin Lee does keep the movie moving, his character's devices to avoid his would-be protector and his assailants manages to add more depth to the film's simple plot. Also, Prince Jeong's change in attitude and his past does give some added `meat' to its plot. The most underused character is Mae, her character has a lot of potential but she seemed underdeveloped. The woman is loyal to Kun but their relationship does leave the reasons to mere assumptions by the audience.
The film also has cleverly paced bits of satire in the first half as our two leads encounter a gang led by a character who looks like the Korean knock-off of "Captain Jack Sparrow" that made me crack up. The interlude where Soha and Prince Jeong encounter a band of bandits who look like `tribute' characters to "House of Flying Daggers" is a nice touch. The film is focused in its direction and the set designs are also quite good. The costumes are elaborate enough to draw attention and yet, they don`t look too superficial.
A film like "Shadowless Sword" will either shine or fail with its promise of pure action entertainment and on this promise it didn`t falter. The film is loaded with highly stylized martial arts that would definitely more than make up for its faults. The movements are precise and graceful enough while maintaining its hard-hitting intensity. Many would compare it to "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" which would be unfair (personally, I wasn't really that impressed with that movie). It`s a different film entirely and "Shadowless Sword" does stand on its own. If you want a lot of nicely shot stylized martial arts then this film will not disappoint.
"SHADOWLESS SWORD" is a substantial entry to Korea's foray into Wuxia/Swordplay adventure. The film is definitely entertaining and enjoyable from beginning to end. The director's cut clocks in at 2 hours, and the direction is to be commended that it feels like it was a mere 90 minutes. Its abundance in action sequences, bits of humor, eye-candy wirework, the film goes at a pace that exudes pure entertainment that I forgave the perfunctory romance and almost too melodramatic ending.
I've said before in my previous review and I'll say it again: "It's the Best South Korean Wuxia Swordplay Fantasy Adventure I've seen thus far!"...and I've seen them all.
Highly Recommended! [4 Stars]
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Seriously, I just want to know what marketing genius thought adding "The Legend of the" to the title would make it more appealing to the US audience (Drunken Master 2 becomes Legend of the Drunken Master). With the exception of Dragon Dynasty, the now defunct Tartan Asian Extreme, and few smaller companies, US DVD distributors love to toy with these films.
The description lists this film as being in 1.33/1 aspect ratio. Specialty sites have it listed as being in its original 2.35/1 ratio. Let's hope they're right. As of this writing, there is no running time listed. If it comes in at anything under 113 minutes, you've been had. US distributors like to try and get these films down to under 100 minutes. That is the magic number for our attention spans apparently. The bottom line is that if they keep the aspect ratio proper and don't hack anything out of it, you'll be in for a real treat. Here's my review of the Korean import.
Shadowless Sword is another great entry from Korea, a country that has spent the new millennium really carving out their place in the asian film world. The story is basically just like King Ralph, except Peter O' Toole has to protect John Goodman from assassins before he can get back to Buckingham Palace and install a bowling alley in the royal bedchamber. Ok, so it's a little different than that. But it is an 'escort the VIP' movie.
SS is from the same director that gave us Bichunoo, another fantastic film. It has a great cast from films like "Guns and Talks" and "Arahan". SS is a swordplay epic. For the laymen, it would be in the same vein of a Crouching Tiger or a Hero or House of Flying Daggers. Period piece, acrobatic wire-fu, lots of swordplay. And while it may not have the budget, star power, and exposure of the previously mentioned films, it can absolutely hold its own against them.
The acting is spot on. The story, while not anything new, is still very engaging. And the action is certainly well worth the watch. Although not quite as graceful as some of it's HK counterparts, the wire work is creative and integrated well into the sequences. The visual approach is stylish without being over-the-top. And it does have a great score, too.
Fans of asian swordplay movies would be wise to give this one a look. It doesn't have the depth of story and character that those looking for something more in the drama category are looking for. And while the action is great, it's not wild and insane like a Kitamura movie or a Hark film, and certainly not as blood-filled. The action sequences would be considered reserved compared to how those guys work. So if you're looking for a good, solid swordplay epic that is subtle and understated while being quite entertaining and action-oriented, this would be a fine choice.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Probably One of the Best Asian Martial Arts movie to date. The scenery, fight scenes, costumes, acting, and story line are among the best. Most martial arts movies center around the same theme or as I would say, "If you've seen one you've seen them all." For a first time Korean Martial Arts Film I would rank this in the TOP 5! Superb Job! It doesn't hurt that the two Korean women Actresses are HOT! HOT! HOT!