Rapid editing disguises the workmanlike fight choreography fairly well, no worse than a lot of films in any case. Wonderful faces & costumes help overcome the mediocrity of the cinematography.
The so-so production values are the result of this having originated not as a movie but as a Singapore television series, based on a novel by the popular Gu Long, which has had better adaptations.
The epic tale, such as it is, has been whittled down from twenty one-hour episodes to three hours, to fit on two discs beginning with The Master Swordsman; aka, Master Swordsman Lu Xiao Feng (Luk Sieu-fung: Kuet jin chin hau, 2001).
The plot is almost impossible to follow even with the help of the box's discription. Story confusion is obviously due to the huge percentage that went by the wayside, in what amounts to a Readers Digest version. But it's hard to imagine that preserving even more of the convolutions would have resulted in anything but an even more tiresome experience.
Master swordsman Lu Xiao-feng (Jimmy Yin, a not particularly talented pop singer who wishes he were an actor) has reason to believe there will be an attempt on the Emperor's life during the God of Swords competition.
Jimmy as Lu certainly is not as interesting as the secondary hero, Lu's friend Ximen Chuixue the Shadow Swordsman (Christopher Lee; no, not that that Christopher Lee), who is something of an anti-hero. Lee can't save the story, however, nor can the always likeable David Chiang in his guest appearance during the first hour of three.
There's lots of action, much of it moronic, throwing in ninjas & the kitchen sink. Tableaus of frozen action have occasional appeal. But none of it is thrilling, as everything turns on soap opera doings that couldn't possibly be interesting even if they made sense.
The Master Swordsman Returns; aka, Master Swordsman Lu Xiao-feng II (Luk Sieu-fung: Kuet jin chin hau II, 2002) adds a third disc to the previous's year's release, presenting a new chapter in the lives of Lu Xiao-feng & Ximen (Mark Cheng & Christopher Lee).
This is even more condensed from a second season's twenty television episodes for Singapore television. All three discs were re-released as a single set as The Master Swordsman Saga (2003).
When these turned up in cut-out bins ultra-cheap, it all seemed worth a try for a swordplay action fan. But any viewer who values time will still come out in the red. Whoever found the first pair of dvds confusing will find the third one all the more so.
In roughest outline, Lu has been falsely accused of ravishing Ximen's wife, so flees from the wrath of his fellow master swordsman. But when he uncovers an evil plot against the nation, Lu realizes he after all must take a stand.
It's pretty awful, with wire-fu antics mixed with CGI on a telefilm budget, loads of action but mostly from actors who need the FX & rapid edits to disguise their ineptitude.
In general, it's a good idea to avoid this type of packaging for Chinese tv-series dvds, as they're cut down so much you can't make hide nor hair of what's left, & you gotta like soaps & the mediocrity of television generally to appreciate made-for-tv productions condensed or whole.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl