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Reign of Assassins ("Jianyu Jianghu")

“★★★★… The best wuxia film since CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON” — Mao Renjie, THE GLOBAL TIMES

“A tip-top cast, well-crafted script and punchy action capture the classic essence of the swordplay genre” — Derek Elley, FILM BUSINESS ASIA

Legend has it that the mummified remains of the wise monk Bodhi can invest the one who possesses them with absolute, unchallengeable mastery of the martial arts. The monk’s cadaver, however, has been torn in two, and both halves must be claimed to achieve such supernatural transcendence. The nefarious assassins of the Dark Stone gang have traced one half of the corpse to the home of Prime Minister Zhang. A treacherous midnight attack leaves Zhang dead and his noble son Renfeng gravely wounded, while Dark Stone’s most lethal killer, the lithe and nimble Drizzle, has betrayed her associates and absconded with the mummified half-monk. Though successful in her dirty deed, Drizzle is confronted by the monk Wisdom, whose words and sacrifice convince her of the evil of her ways. She hires a skilled physician to change her appearance completely, and once healed, adopts a new name, a new home and new purpose in life. As Zeng Jing, she is now an honest fabric merchant, dignified and lovely — catching the eye of every man in town, including the good-natured messenger Ah-sheng, who’s soon enough her loving husband. A pleasant domestic scene, to be sure, but there won’t be any happily-ever-after for these two, not when Drizzle’s dark past catches up with her…

By turns playful, romantic, dramatic and explosively exciting, REIGN OF ASSASSINS is the complete package of wuxia fun, care of Taiwanese screenwriter and primary director Su Chao-Pin. No less than John Woo guided the project as producer and secondary director, clearly enjoying himself with some more playful fare after the monumental epic that was RED CLIFF. Korean star Jung Woo-sung plays Ah-sheng (you’ll remember him from such delights as THE RESTLESS and THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD) and the queen of modern kung fu cinema, the timelessly lovely and elegant Michelle Yeoh, returns to the genre for the first time since CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. She could scarcely have chosen a better vehicle for her return — with solidly crafted characters and plot, a witty script and amazing (but never ridiculous) martial arts, REIGN OF ASSASSINS makes fine use of all the best qualities of China’s beloved silk-and-swordplay genre!

— Rupert Bottenberg