The Assassin (1993)

I picked up director Siu-Hung Chung's powerful 1993 martial arts/swordplay flick The Assassin years ago at a second-hand shop for just a couple of dollars. Instead of watching it right away, the flick sat on a shelf in my collection unwatched for over five years. Realizing that I'd never popped this bad boy into my DVD player, I decided to finally visit The Assassin and quickly discovered that I'd been sleeping on one of the most thoroughly enjoyable flicks in this genre. The film suffers from some production issues due to its low budget (I'm sure someone will disagree with that statement), but it makes up for its shortcomings with kinetic energy, an engaging story, and a wonderful score. The good news: You can pick it up for a few dollars on Amazon. If you like this sort of flick, it's certainly worth grabbing.

Here's the story in a nutshell: Tong Po Ka (Fengyi Zhang), a poor farmer with bad hair, and his chick Yiu (Rosamund Kwan) find themselves in a bit of a pickle when lots of angry guys armed with sticks decide these two lovebirds shouldn't be together. After having his eyes sewn shut, our hero and a group of other miserable prisoners must participate in a no-holds-barred battle to the death, with the winner forced to become an assassin for a blood-thirsty eunuch who has a penchant for long, metallic fingernails and enormous, ornately-carved dildos. After years for beheading, dismembering, and eviscerating his boss' enemies, Tong stumbles across Yiu, who isn't too happy with her former lover's habit of indiscriminately murdering people for a silver-haired madman. When Tong attempts to leave the assassination game for good, he discovers that his megalomaniacal boss isn't willing to let him go without a fight.

I'm currently on a mission to watch flicks I've purchased but never watched, which should take me the better part of two years to accomplish, and this was the first one on the list. I'm not sure what I expected when I popped The Assassin into my trusty, well-worn DVD player. The story itself isn't too far removed from other flicks about assassins who decide they're not interested in murdering large scores of people anymore (see No Tears for the Dead if you want another superior take on this story). That said, Siu-Hung Chung's bold decision to stuff an enormous amount of cartoonish, over-the-top violence helps smooth the script's rough edges. Zhang's portrayal of Tong, a man who really doesn't want to spend his days slaying people at the drop of a hat, also saves the film from becoming yet another tired, cliche-ridden excursion into well-worn kung fu tropes. He may not enjoy killing, but those murders certainly make for good cinema, especially when everything comes together in under 90 minutes.

If you want to watch a really shitty, pixelated version on YouTube, check out the embed below.

The Assassin (1993) The Assassin (1993) Reviewed by The Film Fiend on Saturday, April 09, 2016 Rating: 5