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Moon Warriors
cast: Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Anita Mui, Kenny Bee, and Yi Chang

director: Sammo Hung

83 minutes (18) 1993
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton
With action choreography by Ching Siu-tung, of A Chinese Ghost Story fame, this martial arts fantasy adventure is assured of more than standard kung fu scenes as its heroes and villains exhibit superhuman powers in the stunning airborne ballet of flying swordplay and routine defiance of gravity. Despite a short running time, Moon Warriors (aka: Zhan shen chuan shun) is very much in keeping with the postmodern fashion of Hong Kong epic period pictures, offering a deft blend of intriguing drama, romantic interludes with a 'fairy tale' ambience generated by some melancholy songs, and satisfyingly spectacular fighting scenes unspoilt by brief moments of seemingly unintentional humour.
   Fugitive ruler, the 13th prince Yen (Kenny Bee), uses a hidden ancestral tomb as a convenient hideout from the violent rivalry of his nasty younger brother, who commands a small army of 'royal thieves', and relies upon Yen's own treacherous bodyguard Hsien (Maggie Cheung) to follow the fleeing royals' travels. Fisherman Fei (Andy Lau, more recently seen in Fulltime Killer) is recruited by Brother Yen, and sent to escort bride-to-be Yuet (played by the late Anita Mui) to safety but, of course, the peasant warrior falls in love with Yen's lovely fiancé...
   Dazzling and painterly visuals, an aerial battle in a bamboo forest predating a similar sequence in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a lonely hero that swims playfully with his pet killer whale, mass slaughter of innocents, and the familiar themes of loyalty, betrayal, and vengeance are all combined here with assurance and finesse, making this one of the touchstones of Hong Kong cinema. Honestly, there can be no denying the broad-ranging appeal of this Asian movie's artistically innovative action set pieces. Its merits as coolly stylish period fantasy drama and poignant tragedy are beyond question. Although some fans of kung fu action may find the songs and romantic triangle rather twee, at times, aficionados of Hong Kong style swordplay movies will certainly enjoy the rush of astounding images.
   This special edition DVD has a digitally restored and re-mastered presentation with both Cantonese (with English subtitles), and English-dubbed versions. Disc extras are an audio commentary track by genre expert Bey Logan, with producer Mabel Cheung and screenwriter Alex Law (who are both interviewed, in Dynamic Duo, where they put paid to persistent rumours of alternate endings for the film). There's also a fascinating interview, The Colour Of Truth, with cinematographer Arthur Wong, and a tribute to Anita Mui (who died tragically young in December 2003) by Bey Logan and singer-actress protégé Helena Ma. A selection of Hong Kong Legends and Premier Asia trailers completes the highly collectable package.

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