The East is Red
AKA: Swordsman III, Swordsman III: The East is Red
Directors: Ching Siu-Tung, Raymond Lee
Stars: Brigitte Lin, Joey Wong, Jean Wang, Yu Rong-Guang
A Chinese official (Yu Rong-Guang) named Koo is helping some Spaniards recover items stolen by the evil (and supposedly dead) Asia the Invincible (Brigitte Lin) when he discovers the Spainards are really after a mystical scroll held by Asia, which will grant the user unlimited power. While trying to stop the Spaniards, Koo discovers Asia is very much alive, and not very happy that people have been using her name to gain power. Koo tries to keep Asia in check and seems to be succeeding until Asia's former lover Snow (Joey Wong) enters the picture.
Watching this movie might be akin to getting hit on the head. At first. there is a great deal of pain, but once that subsides, there comes a feeling of almost contentment as things draw into focus. The East is Red throws so many things at the viewer, it's almost impossible to keep track of (much less catch) them all, but nevertheless this remains one of the most powerful films to come out of Hong Kong -- perhaps not concidentally at the apex of its' "golden age", where anything seemed possible and the only limits were the film-maker's imaginations.
Though technically a sequel to the ultra-popular Swordsman II, The East is Red is actually much more of a character study of sorts, rather than the straight out wire-fu extravanganza of the previous two movies. In true Hong Kong style, this is probably due more to the fact that only Brigitte Lin returns from part 2 (Jet Li was busy doing other films as his relationship with producer Tsui Hark was coming to a temporary end) than the film-makers' desire to explore Lin's character. This ostensibly would make for a much more linear movie than the star-choked previous installments, as besides Asia, there are really only three other main characters. However, Asia is given so many dimensions -- from savior to demon and everything in between -- that she become almost a cast unto herself. This leads things to get a bit confusing as Asia's motives (and their resulting actions) become a bit unclear, but the movie moves at a good clip, and Lin's mesmerizing minamalistic performance keeps things rolling well.
One must note the action sequences in this movie. They're almost impossible to describe in print -- one involves a midget Japanese warlord who hides behind an impressive set of armor complete with various gadgets, another has some sort of albino ninja who comes out of the skin of a beautiful woman -- but pure joy to watch in action. Even if you don't enjoy any of the other aspects of The East is Red, if you consider yourself an action or martial arts fan at all, you owe it to yourself to give this movie at least one viewing just on the strength of these sequences. Hollywood can try to copy and ripoff all the wire-fu they want, but this movie represents something truly unique to Hong Kong, and something that could never be replicated outside of it.
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A review of the DVD for this movie can be found here
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This DVD is available for purchase at www.hkflix.com