[adrotate banner=”1″]Wong Jing is back again for the 100th time (okay, okay, 93rd time…) with Princess & Seven Kung Fu Masters (笑功震武林), a sort of kung fu Snow White but not really but also wacky weird stuff. With Sammo Hung as Sammo Hung, and also Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Rose Chan Ka-Wun, Timmy Hung Tin-Ming, Natalie Meng Yao, Xie Na, Yuen Wah, Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, Wong Cho-Lam, and many more. It looks totally, totally…something. And because everything Hong Kong is Chinese now, it’s in Mandarin. Yeah.
During the early years of the Republic era, in the North-East region of China, the people are suffering from the power struggle among the local Warlords, bandits, and Japanese invaders. Warlord Lam (Sammo Hung), is not a leader of great vision, but stands firm in his own beliefs. The only paradise within the region is ‘Lucky Town’, the one place where no one dared to attack as it was protected by the seven kung fu masters who have resided there. When young patriots, Yan Fang (Rose Chan) who disguised herself as a man, and Howard Luo (Dennis To), infiltrate Tiger’s Den at night trying to steal the code book fail in their mission and tries to run, only Yan survives and is rescued by Cheryl. Mistaking Yan as a man, Cheryl falls for Yan. She then brings Yan to Lucky Town and begs the Seven Masters to cure Yan. Cheryl and the Seven Masters are then told of the secret plan by the Japanese, and together, they resolve to fight against Tiger Den and save Warlord Lam.
2011 Written by Erica Li Man and Checkley Sin Kwok-Lam
Directed by Herman Yau Lai-To
To say that The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake was a disappointment would be a sad understatement. The biopic of famed femme revolutionary Qiu Jin is about a remarkable woman in a dangerous time, but the entire narrative suffers through flashbacks and a lack of establishing just what the heck is going on. I am familiar with the history of Qiu Jin because she’s interesting, but I still had trouble following the historical who’s who of revolutionaries, both real and consolidated/fake. Unfocused and scattered, The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake jumps from revolutionary speak to scenes trying to depict how women got it tough to speeches about Chinese patriotism to battle scenes involving people the audience has never met. The zig-zagging prevents a good narrative that we can follow, and the flashbacks serve no purpose and don’t correspond to what is happening in the present. It’s like they read about the narrative technique in a book and decided to do it just because it sounded cool. Herman Yau Lai-To has directed some cult classics in years gone by, but his extreme nature seems to have been neutered for bigger paychecks, and along with that, any attempts to do things creatively.
The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake is a very patriotic film. Most discussions on the ills of society end up running into the narrative that China is lead by weaklings, so that’s why everything sucks. And at this time, China was essentially carved up by foreign powers, humiliated, and reform attempts had just ended in disaster. But instead of showing how the failures justify the repeated revolution attempts (there were literally dozens over the years before they took), we just jump to the next problem of women not being able to travel due to children, or Japan restricting what students can say, or Qiu Jin’s husband being an entitled douche.
Beyond the script not following a story arc that makes it easy to follow, the individual scenes themselves are messes at times. The most notable is near the end of the film where there is an attempted assassination of a local governor. The setup and subsequent fight seems to last forever, and it’s filled with unknown people fighting unknown people. Worst of all, we all know the conclusion, because it was in the beginning of the film! This is like worrying if Obi-Won Kenobi is in any trouble in a Star Wars prequel.
Qiu Jin (Crystal Huang Yi) – Independent female who won’t be caged. Uses her skills at the brush to fight for freedom with essays and poems. Eventually becomes allied with ever more armed revolutionaries and is caught up in the fervor, and captured for execution as a traitor.
Li Zongyue (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) – Qing official who is present during Qiu Jin’s trial and is an old family friend. Has to reluctantly go along with her downfall.
Xu Xilin (Dennis To Yue-Hong) – Historical revolutionary whose attempts to assassinate a local governor end with the government cracking down on his group with deadly force.