The film is set during China’s Three Kingdoms period where a great deal of warring and political upheaval occurred. To unify the country after the collapse of the Han dynasty, the general Cao Cao - the real power behind the Emperor, enlists Guan Yun Chang (played by Donnie Yen who also choreographed and directed the action scenes) who was the most famous and feared warrior of the time.
To complicate matters, Guan Yun Chang is a loyal friend of Cao Cao’s enemy Lui Bei . To persuade the peerless warrior to fight, Cao Cao takes Qi Lan (played by gorgeous Sun Li) hostage. This causes no ends of problems as she is Lius Bei’s betrothed, and Guan is secretly in love with her.
The film is based on ‘fact’, but given I am not an expert in Chinese History, I can’t say how accurate it may be. The historical warrior, Guan Yu, travelled across China, killing every general who stood in his way. He is attributed as playing a major role in the civil war that led to the collapse of Han Dynasty & the establishment of Shu Han of the 3 Kingdoms, making Liu Bei its first emperor.
After leading Cao Cao’s forces to victory, Guan Yun Chang sets out with Qi Lan to rejoin Liu Bei. However, Cao Cao sees the warrior as too great a threat to live, and orders his death.
Like many Chinese movies, this begins with a lengthy title scroll describing the historical setting. For Western viewers this proves to be a tedious reading task.
Throughout the film, Guan is faces with insurmountable odds but always manages to pull off the most incredible escapes and fights, leaving you breathless with awe at the action and beauty of the fluidity it was undertaken.
Although the fight scenes uses wire work and employs ‘fantasy fight’ scenes – something many Western viewers can’t seem to get a handle of, these work flawlessly as its literally one fight after the next, each distinct from the other. Some are filmed in tiny corridors or narrow alleyways, others are in the misty bamboo forests. The horse scenes are spectacular as are the larger armed forces scenes.
Despite the charming Sun Li’s solid performance, the romance element came across stilted and shallow, rather than something which carries the plot.
Though the Lost Bladesman focuses on the warring politics, its really about the human elements of honour and betrayal. Its an epic martial arts film, though made confusing with the myriad of characters, the political undertones and the historical context which a Chinese audience may be better familiar with. Defiantly a film to compare to Hero and a martial artists delight to watch.