Savior of the Soul


Director: Corey Yuen & David Lai

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

A studly young super-swordsman (Aaron Kwok) faces off a barrage of machine-gun fire, sparking bullets bouncing off his enveloping cloak. The sweeping edge of his sword neatly slices off the top of an armored soldier's head. And like most video games, the how, where & why of it doesn't matter, just keep those fingers twitching on the joystick.

Savior of the SoulMeanwhile May Ying, a "city soldier" & mercenary knife-fighter, is being played most unfortunately by singer Anita Mui who like Britiney Spears & similar wee beauties thought she could act.

In an action role, Anita Mui is so awkwardly unmartial that her casting is disastrous. Not even the fast-fast style of editing can disguise her incompetence in the role.

The youth in the black cape is the villain though of all the unlikeable characters, I liked him better than the "good" guys & gals. His name is Silver Hair because of his two hundred dollar do. If ever he can't afford to keep it touched up he'll have to change his name to Roots.

Comedy relief is provided in Soul of the Sword (1991) by international superstar Andy Lau, who should be given a spanking for agreeing to be in crap this bad.

The "oddball modern" costuming is no more successfully fashionable than the mediocre cast, unless maybe to the tweens & pre-teens who like to sneak around & view such violent stuff only because they're not supposed to.

Even when there's an actor one would expect a performance from (Andy Lau at the very least) he turns out to be doing his worst acting ever, in what we can only wish were his worst film.

I accidentally started it with the Cantonese language track & after a couple minutes went back & started it again in its actual language, Mandarin, & at least the voices worked better, even if everything else stayed awful.

The story is set in a comic book world of the future but with less explanation than one would get from a comic book. It's the near future but it appears that some technological change has restored swordfighting & kung fu "martial world" culture even in the face of gun-toting foes. There's no attempt to make any of it logical or convincing. You have to go with the high-camp flow of it all, or just get really peevish that it's so bad.

Silver Fox fights with a katana & tends to look fairly competent faking a semi-Japanese style. Nevertheless, awkwardly performed knife-art by May magically succeeds in putting out one of Silver Fox's eyes. He'll return with a Phantom of the Opera mask, struggling to remain the only cool guy in the cast.

It gets dumber & dumber until one joke is actually kinda funny (the parody of Superman), & then blessedly at long last it finally ends. Unfortunately, there's a sequel.

Savior of the Soul Don't even ask why I bothered, as I initially had no intention of suffering through a second chapter given what a turd the first film was. Savior of the Soul 2 (1992) did have quite lovely poster art, of a sequence that turned out to be from a dream. But nothing in the film is as good as that poster.

I figured I at least knew exactly how bad it would be, having already seen the first one, but I was wrong. The sequel took what was already terrible & did it a second time as a slapstick comedy. Far less violent than the first film, it is at least legitimately more apropriate for the eight & ten year olds who seem to have written it.

It's not literally a sequel but an entirely different film, not that that matters. Both films share sloppy incompetence in common. Far from exhibiting the "soul" of anything, this film is evidence of the disconnect between anything resembling a soul, or martial philosophy, or even just artistry in filmmaking, & the artless, rank soullessness of commercialism.

Andy Lau opens the show swinging a long slim wobbly piece of tin in the snow, then flying about like a cartoon superhero. He tosses a bridge of swords & runs across the aerial bridge, showing off for a pretty girl known as the Ice Maiden (Rosamond Kwan). Then a new car drops from the sky. Then he wakes up from the stupid dream.

Lots happens, none of it interesting. Badly done FX-driven ineffective action is the "best" part of a pair of films void of good parts. Like, the love of Andy Lau's life turns out to be eighty years old with the worst old age make-up ever concocted. They can't even do cheap morning-soaps melodrama effectively.

Lots of Hong Kong films from the early & mid '90s are pure campiness that come off as retarded children trying to get attention by masturbating at the dinner table. It was a period of cinematic decline when the more effective campiness of the 1980s -- notably Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (Suk san: Sun suk san geen hap 1983) & the wholeChinese Ghost Story cycle -- deteriorated into carelessly deposited excreta.

So, you still wanna see these two executive turds? Go for it. You've been warned.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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