The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake
AKA: Qiu Jin
Year of release: 2011
Genre: historical drama/martial arts
Director: Herman Yau
Action directors: Tony Leung Siu-Hung, Checkley Sin
Producer: Checkley Sin
Writers: Checkley Sin, Erica Li
Cinematography: Joe Chan
Editing: Azrael Chung
Music: Mak Jan-Hung
Stars: Crystal Huang Yi, Anthony Wong, Dennis To, Rose Chan, Kevin Cheng, Pat Ha, Lam Suet, Hung Yan-Yan
Rated IIB for violence
Movie Review Index
The current wave of Hong Kong/Mainland China historical drama co-productions rolls on with Herman Yau's The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake, a film based around the life of revolutionary Qiu Jin. To its' credit, the movie doesn't quite fall to the obvious propagandistic depths of pictures like Beginning of the Great Revival, but it's not exactly rousing entertainment, either.
Like most of these recent films, there has been some, shall we say, "liberties" taken with the historical facts. Here, we have the portrayal of Qiu Jin (essayed by Crystal Huang Yi) as a martial arts master. But, as a selfish action junkie, I have to say it is the fighting scenes which provided the most excitement. Helmed by the under-rated action director Tony Leung Siu-Hung (with assistance from the film's producer and co-writer Checkley Sin) the fights here are crisply made and deliver the expected level of thrills for the genre, even if they are a bit heavy on wirework at points.
That is not to say the exposition scenes are duds. With fifty-seven films under his belt, Herman Yau can now be considered a veteran director in Hong Kong cinema, even though those outside of the filmic geek circle might not know his name. Whatever the genre he is working in, Yau can almost always be counted on to deliver quality direction, and this movie is no exception. Woman Knight, for the most part, thankfully reels in the over the top melodrama and Communist Chinese drum-beating that can permeate these types of releases.
In particular, Crystal Huang Yi does an excellent job. Regulated to supporting roles for much of her career, she shines here, creating a portrayal of Qiu Jin that becomes three-dimensional and real, instead of simply going through the motions in order to appease the base needs of a general audience and the rigorous standards of Mainland censors. Factoring in the solid work put forth by the other actors, especially Anthony Wong, who plays a beleaguered Qing offical growing increasingly tired of trying to enforce the dynasty's draconian laws, Woman Knight is a solidly made picture all around.
So why, then, doesn't Woman Knight warrant a higher rating from this humble reviewer? Part of it is undoubtedly down to burnout. There has been so many historical "epics" coming out of Hong Kong and China lately that it is becoming increasingly hard to become interested, much less invested, in yet another release in the genre.
Taking in the bigger picture, one also has to take into account the fact that there is an underlying tone of propaganda presented here, even with Yau diluting the blatantly obvious pro-red propagandistic elements. Truly enjoying a motion picture that uses revolutionary heroes as its' subject, yet still has been tweaked and churned into a product for mass consumption by a government that has increasingly come under fire over recent years for the neglect and mistreatment of its' populace as a source of entertainment is a tough pill to swallow.