Moon Warriors
(Zhan shen chuan shuo) (1993)
Directed by Sammo Hung

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * ½

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In medieval China, the emperor (Kenny Bee) has been deposed by his own brother and, accompanied by the deadly Hsien (Maggie Cheung), has fled the capital pursued by soldiers seeking to kill him. When he and his companions are attacked by the usurper's men, Fei (Andy Lau), a good-natured fisherman skilled in martial arts, comes to their aid. Together with his new friend, the emperor then travels to meet his ally, who happens to be the father of Yeuh (Anita Mui), the woman to whom he is betrothed. After having been attacked again, the group is forced to disperse, and when they meet again, after many ordeals, they realize that one of them is a traitor.

Sammo Hung's Moon Warriors is a frequently entertaining movie. The fights are exciting and the hopeless love that develops between Yeuh and Fei is affecting. Unfortunately, the movie has little else to offer and does have a number of flaws. The plot is virtually nonexistent. The characters are largely uninspired, and, despite a few moments of beauty, the movie is not visually distinctive.


The film's action sequences are, however, consistently well realized. All are genuinely exhilarating and skilfully choreographed. The director has combined realistic kung fu techniques with the impossible, magical actions found in films of the Wu Xia genre. Combatants leap and spin through the air, fight off dozens of opponents, and perform a number of other supernatural feats. Not only are such stunts delightful and thrilling, but they also give the movie a wonderful, enchanted feel.

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Sadly, the faults of Moon Warriors are numerous. Except for the depictions of the doomed love that develops between Fei and Yeuh, the story is almost completely uninteresting and, apparently, exists largely to provide excuses for the frequent fights. The acting ranges from tolerable to below average, although it is rarely truly bad. A number of scenes featuring a killer whale are, however, shockingly painful to watch and provide the movie with its weakest moments. In the first of these, Fei rides the whale through a bay and performs a number of acrobatic stunts with him. Later, the whale actually manages to foil the villain and save his human friend's life. Every second the whale is on screen is ghastly and embarrassing.


What is more, the movie is extremely uneven visually. A few scenes, the colors and composition of which are reminiscent of those found in many Chinese landscape paintings, are surprisingly beautiful. Most, however, are pedestrian, and a few are dreadful. That in which Fei, or rather his very obvious stunt double, plays with his friend the killer whale was clearly filmed in an amusement park and is absolutely atrocious.


Nevertheless, if the viewer is able to ignore the movie's numerous flaws, Moon Warriors can be an entertaining and exciting diversion.

Review by Keith Allen

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