I never expected to discover a martial arts film that was funny. This film is humorous and contains satire along with tremendously effective martial arts scenes. There is a great story line and plot, a romantic love triangle with some tension, beautiful scenery, and great cinematography with long shots of fighting in a bamboo forest, along with very creative photography of fight scenes looking down from the bamboo trees onto the fighters. At times, there is the feeling of a video game in progress because occasionally the acting is somewhat exaggerated to emphasize a specific scene, plus there is the insertion of two crossed swords onto the screen, prior to or during a fight. The music within this film is most enjoyable. Different musical styles accompany various scenes which enhances the feeling and sensitivity of the moment. There is Spanish flamenco music, classical music, some Mediterranean Italian sounding music, and extraordinairy flute playing throughout the film.
The characters are developed with great style and creativity. There is Phoenix Black, a pretty and talented female student who plays two musical instruments, the flute and the lute, and dances very sensitively and provocatively. By chance she encounters the blind assassin in the forest, who hears her flute music and is captivated both by her music as well as her fighting skills. Although the assassin is viewed as a criminal, in reality he is doing a service for the community because he only kills corrupt people ... He also shares whatever bounty he collects with the poor.
Phoenix encounters the assassin again at her school where Auntie, the cleaning lady (who in reality is a great fighter) ends up nearly being defeated by the assassin. This great elderly lady martial artist's name includes the word "Dragon". She suffered near fatal injuries during her fight with the blind assassin, she fears she is dying and quickly downloads her special powers to Phoenix who then becomes "The White Dragon". Phoenix fights the assassin on the school grounds where the assassin is even more impressed by her skills and effective powers/techniques. It turns out, the assassin had a goal: to kill the principle of the school who was discovered to have been fondling the female students. The principle signed a confession to this misdeed before he was killed.
The students are in an uproar after finding out the Principle was killed and the reason why. Two rival cliques of female students huddle together discussing the strange events of the night before. The cook at the school, named Gene, provides some humourous insights into how it is known when the blind assassin strikes. Gene reveals his discovery, there are always chicken feathers left at every crime where the assassin has struck. Gene has studied the matter thoroughly. He even names the types of chickens whose feathers are floating in the air, after the assassin has left.
Phoenix does a solo performance at the school. She plays the lute and does a very beautiful sensual Chinese dance where she captures the attention of the local King's son, Prince Tian Yong. His father rules the territory and they want to bring the assassin to justice. Later she has a date with the Prince where besides playing the lute and flute for him, they play tennis and roller skate. Later unfortunately, Phoenix ends up fighting the blind assassin and during one highly stylized martial arts encounter, she fractures a leg. The assassin takes pity on her and brings her to his home located on a beautiful lake. When she plays her flute, he falls in love with her. The blind assassin makes her food, creates crutches for her and even builds a wheelchair from wood. She acts petulant and spoiled. She tricks him into buying paper, pen, and ink. She writes letters to Prince Tian which are sent by carrier pigeon. She explains her absence with a white lie, telling him she is on tour performing with the school's music and dance troupe. Eventually, her heart is awakened to the plight of the blind assassin and she becomes more open and caring towards him. She asks him to tell his story, of how he became blind. It is a touching and sensitive tale. She develops empathy toward him.
Despite her tender feelings toward the blind assassin, the plot thickens and through a highly crafted story-line and in well developed scenes, Phoenix manages to escape from the blind assassin. The assassin is captured by the army of the local warlord/king. Phoenix is torn between trying to save the life of the blind assassin who had treated her well during captivity or to resume the romance with Prince Tian, who inherited the throne from his father. Prince Tian has become the local ruler - his plans are clear: the blind assassin must be put to death for his crimes. The suspense and drama is immense as Phoenix is forced to choose between the blind assassin and her boyfriend, the new ruler of the realm. Amazingly, chicken feathers provide the the major clue to helping Phoenix resolve her personal conflict and they play a major role in saving the life of the blind assassin. This is a most highly recommended film. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]