(1996)2.5Donald GuariscoThis swordplay epic -- an update of the early martial arts classic The One-Armed Swordsman -- has style to burn, but is a bit too ambitious for its own good. It's main problem is an overloaded script; subplots concerning a romantic triangle and the way females view males overwhelm the revenge tale at the heart of the story instead of fleshing it out. As a result, The Blade's story never manages to establish a comfortable rhythm or coherent story flow because it constantly shifts gears and exchanges one plot thread or theme for another. This makes getting through the film a sometimes trying experience, but The Blade offers some rewards for the patient viewer. Man Cheuk Chiu handles his transformation from impetuous youth to single-minded killing machine with skill and Tsui Hark's willingness to experiment with the genre's rules (a female character as a narrator, avoiding wirework trickery in favor of brutally realistic fights) is quite pleasing. Best of all, The Blade is full of stunning swordplay set pieces, including a terrifying nocturnal fight in a large bamboo structure that is soon decimated by slashing swords and the scene where Ding On first tests out of his self-created "spinning blade" fighting technique. All in all, The Blade is a bit too experimental and unfocused for the casual action fan, but has enough solid action and intriguing stylistic flourishes to please the hardcore Hong Kong film fan.