The Assassin (HK 1993)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/13/99
Cast: Max Mok, Rosamund Kwan

A nice looking big budget period kung fu piece with a Category III rating for graphic violence. A nasty emperor takes criminals who are sentenced to death and recruits them into his army of elite killers. For whatever reason, the main character (Po Ka) is sentenced to death for running off with beautiful Rosamund Kwan (who wouldn't?), and it's his love for her that gives him the will to survive all of the torment that he goes through. A young and ambitious killer (Max Mok doing his best Leslie Cheung impersonsation) befriends him and they soon become the emperor's best and favorite killers. That is, until during a mission when Po Ka sees Ms. Kwan in the crowd and flees in anguish. He tries to leave the life of a killer behind, but the government's agents are hot on his heels. Max Mok shows up again as the assassin ordered to kill Po Ka, and they have a wonderful exchange at a restaurant in the middle of the desert. Good swordfighting and kung fu all around, only occasionally marred by sloppy editing and camerawork. Once again, Rosamund Kwan is reduced to a window dressing role, but the thoughtful slow motion camerawork involved with her character helps elevate her to goddess status. Surprisingly bloody, with numerous beheadings and torso splittings, and it seems that buckets of blood spray whenever swords clash. Also in the "icky" category is a frightfully realistic scene of Po Ka getting his eyelids sewn shut. Ew...