Magazine article Variety

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (LONG MEN FEI JIA)

Magazine article Variety

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (LONG MEN FEI JIA)

Article excerpt

FILM

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

LONG MEN FEI JIA

China

The 3D is terrific in "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate," but helmer Tsui Hark's costume actioner - the first Chineselingo movie shown in the stereoscopic Imax format - is let down by two-dimensional characters. Toplining an underused Jet Li, this reworking of King Hu's "Dragon Gate Inn" (1966) and the Tsui-produced "New Dragon Gate Inn" (1992) scored an impressive $22 nriJJion opening weekend gross following its Dec. 15 domestic release. Modest figures in a simultaneous Australian rollout suggests biz beyond Asia wil be just OK. North American distribution details are yet to be announced.

"Swords" has notched mighty numbers on 59 giantscreens locally; at regular venues, the pic was narrowly beaten for the top B.O. spot by Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War," launched the same day.

Action centers initially on Zhou Huai'an (Li), a freedom fighter opposing corrupt eunuchs holding power during China's Ming dynasty. Following a knockout opening sequence in which he and his small band of followers rescue alleged traitors facing certain death at a shipyard, Zhou disappears for long stretches while Tsui introduces a lengthy roster of characters whose paths eventually cross.

Chief among these is Ling Yanqiu (Zhou Xun), a female warrior who has rescued Su Huirong (Mavis Fan), a palace maid marked for death after being impregnated by the emperor. Charged with elirmnating Su is Yu Huatian (Chen Kun), a regional boss who tracks the women to Dragon Gate Inn, a rough-and-tumble hostel in the middle of the desert where human flesh is on the menu.

Built over a city of treasures accessible only during a sandstorm that's about to make its onceevery-60-years appearance, the establishment has attracted adventurers including the roughneck crew of Mongol princess Buludu (Gwei Lun-mei), female bandit Gu Shaotang (Li Yuchun), and her partner-in-crime, Wind Blade (also Chen), a dead ringer for Yu. What follows is a sometimes confusing series of deceptions, doublecrosses and barroom brawls as Wind Blade and Yu impersonate each other, and Zhou re-enters the picture ahead of the climactic CGI sandstorm.

With the assistance of "Avatar's" 3D visual effects supervisor, Chuck Comisky (credited as supervising stereographer), Tsui stages any number of marvelous action sequences. …

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