WILD SWORDS (2020) short review

Directed by Li Yunbo under the illustrious guidance of Feng Xiaogang and with regular Jia Zhangke collaborator Matthieu Laclau editing, Wild Swords follows Wang Yidao (Zhao Jian) and his team of bodyguards, tasked by a mysterious employer with escorting prisoner Guo Changsheng (Zhang Xiaochen) to a temple. The defiant Guo is said to know the whereabouts of Zhang Weiran (Shangbai), a member of the powerful Nameless Sect who years ago murdered the heir of the rival Tangmen Sect. Along the dangerous way, Wang and his men are followed both by Bai Xiaotian (Sui Yongliang), a former member of the Nameless Sect with a bone to pick with Zhang Weiran, and by Tang Wuque (Eric Hsiao), a representative of the Tangmen Sect. This is a film that delights and frustrates in equal measure. The former because is a visually stunning affair, with earthy yet ornate photography – a difficult paradox to master – regaling the eyes, and elaborate yet abrupt fight choreography: yet another paradox. And the latter because narratively it tries to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, with plot intricacies teased but never developed upon, and promising characters proving one-dimensional when all is said and done. **/12