The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen

一代劍王 | Yi dai jian wang | King of Swords
 •  , ,  •   • Dir.

Reviewed by   |  May 22, 2024

Joseph Kuo’s gorgeously shot, and action-soaked wuxia tale should be held in much higher regard and is thankfully now getting a fantastic new release of life on Blu Ray.

‘The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen’ tells the story of Tsai Ying-jie (Tien Peng) who has been training himself to exact revenge on Yun Chun-chung (Tsao Chien) and his gang of evil fighters. Many years earlier when Tsai was just a child, his father was slain by the gang for his infamous Spirit Chasing Sword. Swearing vengeance, Tsai has trained himself to become a formidable fighter and, once old enough, sets out to slay the gang one-by-one. But the evil fighters don’t go so easily and when Tsai almost loses his life to the overwhelming number of opponents, he’s saved by none other than Yun Chun-chung’s own daughter, Flying Swallow (Polly Shang-Kuan). Complicating his quest for revenge Tsai is indebted to Flying Swallow and must decide whether to see his quest through.

A somewhat straightforward, and at times melodramatic, narrative is given heft by the committed cast, stunning cinematography and set design, and fantastic swordplay action. Kuo, taking his first steps into the cinematic world of action/wuxia after years of producing films in many other genres, shows a deft hand for action and a keen eye for composition. In fact, while the action and acting are of a high standard it’s the cinematography, in particular the framing, that gives the film its class: stunning wide shots and smooth tracking shots frame the action and drama to almost cinematic perfection. One is often kept riveted just by how well shot the film is.

Yet, the action and narrative also compliment the great framing as Kuo and his team craft a riveting period piece that is buoyed by frequent bouts of exciting swordplay. The action may be less sophisticated than future films of the type, but it’s always tense, well staged, and features many a great kill. The film satisfyingly plays out its main character’s quest for revenge all the way to its complicated conclusion. Tien Peng and in particular Polly Shang-Kuan are fantastic, and Kuo keeps everything moving fairly swiftly so the lulls in melodrama never derail the action and the quest for vengeance.

A technical marvel, ‘The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen’ is some classy old-school wuxia action.

Follow me
Latest posts by Andrew Skeates (see all)