DVD Review: The Lady Assassin

Starring: Tang Thanh Ha, Ngoc Quyen, Kim Dung

Director: Nguyen Quang Dung

Rating: 7/10

This Vietnamese smash hit martial arts flick revolves around a group of feisty maidens who work in a tavern-cum-brothel, murdering any men who happen to cross their threshold. (So, not much interest in repeat custom or word of mouth then?) One day they accidentally free a girl from the clutches of some corrupt officials. Learning that she seeks vengeance on a nasty local warlord who is a thorn in their side, they take her in and train her to be one of their own. But unfortunately for them, she’s not what she seems…

You can’t help wondering at the historical accuracy of some of it (did they really have beach volleyball in 19th century Vietnam? Not that I’m complaining), but there’s no gainsaying that The Lady Assassin is an enjoyably lavish period adventure, decked out with gorgeous, brightly coloured silk gowns, whirling wire work and high-kicking action. The settings are vivid, the leading ladies look stunning, the martial arts sequences are witty and intricate in the best Chinese manner, and I promise you, you’ll fall in love with the cute bamboo cups in which the drinks are served in the lethal tavern.

The film is not exactly over-burdened with plot, mind you, with a lot of time being devoted to those games of volleyball (important lady assassin training). It’s also a shame that the villain – who is excellent, with hilarious eyebrows – makes such a late appearance. But the movie makes up for its shortcomings with bags of charm and an endless parade of vibrant hues, and you forget the issues with pacing as you get swept up in a final twenty minutes which is basically one long sword fight. The DVD transfer is decent, but what a pity the film isn’t also being released on Blu-ray – this is a movie meant for HD and it would make for an extremely tempting purchase in that format.

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