Before becoming a noted writer and director in the 1980's, Derek Yee (the son of producer Yee Kwong and famed character actress Hong Wei and the half-brother of stars David Chiang and Paul Chun Pui) starred in around forty productions for the famous Shaw Brothers studio. His breakout role was in 1977's Death Duel, which he has now remade with the 2016 release Sword Master. Does Yee's take on the classic material have any sway for modern audiences?
The overall answer is a bit of mixed bag, though thankfully, the cinematic pendulum swings towards the positive aspects. Sword Master's main fault, like many wuxia (fantasy swordsplay) genre pictures -- especially those adapted from classic Chinese novels -- is an overstuffed plot that some might find daunting to get through, moreso when combined with some flattish exposition scenes that take a lot of the steam out of the forward momentum propelled by the action scenes.
As you might expect, it is the fight sequences that become Sword Master's bread and butter. Yee employs the veteran action directors Yuen Bun and Dion Lam well here, and there was also talk of producer Tsui Hark helping out in addition, especially when it came to the employment of the 3D effects that were present in the theatrical release (the US version from Well Go USA is in 2D only). While the fights aren't anything mind-blowing, they are fast-moving and fun to watch, and should satisfy fans of the higher-flying side of martial arts cinema.
Sword Master will be released uncut and in the original Mandarin language on April 11 2017 in North America from Well Go USA. Bonus features include trailers for the movie and other Well Go releases, interviews, and behind the scenes featurettes. Click here to order the Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon, or you may also click here to watch the movie now via their VOD service.
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