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  Swordsman Adventure Don't know him from Adam
Year: 1983
Director: Chester Wong Chung-Gwong
Stars: Adam Cheng, Candice Yu, Ming Ming, Liu Chia-Fen, Debbie Chou Tan-Wei, Wa Lun, Cheung Fook-Gin, Chen Hung-Lieh, Su Chen-Ping, Lung Fei, Tin Ming, Jack Lung Sai-Ga, Alan Chui Chung-San, Poon Cheung-Ming, Mary Wong Ma-Lee
Genre: Martial Arts, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Having captured the local lord the dastardly Seven Killers raid a Buddhist temple where his five beautiful daughters lie in hiding. One by one they murder the temple nuns until Sin-Shiu (Candice Yu) and her sisters surrender. However as luck would have it the Emperor's sexy daughter Princess Chien (Debbie Chou Tan-Wei) happens along. She intervenes placing the girls under her protection. When dashing swordsman Gen (Adam Cheng) and his mentor, righteous monk Yu Wei (Tin Ming) visit Princess Chien she assigns the former to form an all-female hit-squad comprised of the five sisters and one feisty nun (Liu Chia-Fen) to take out the Seven Killers, one by one. Disguising himself with an iron mask, Gen infiltrates the gang only to discover the big boss is none other than the Imperial Chancellor (Chen Hung-Lieh) and therefore untouchable.

Adam Cheng is to the wu xia swordplay movie what John Wayne was to the Hollywood western, namely the embodiment of an heroic archetype. From his breakthrough roles in various television serials (he remains a Hong Kong TV staple to this day) to such genre-defining movies as The Sword (1980), Cat vs. Rat (1982), Demon Fighter (1982), General Invincible (1983), Shaolin vs. Wu Tang (1983) and of course Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983) to crowd-pleasing cameos in the likes of Fong Sai Yuk (1993), no actor was more closely associated with the righteous swordsman of classical wu xia. To the point where when he pops up in the children's comedy Shaolin Popeye II: Messy Temple (1994) the protagonists know they can trust his character because "he is played by Adam Cheng." Even though Cheng proved he had range with a memorable villainous turn in Kirk Wong's dark and gritty crime thriller Gunmen (1990).

Swordsman Adventure ranks among Cheng's more obscure wu xia outings. Based on a novel by Gu Long, the prolific source author of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and around umpteen Chu Yuan-directed Shaw Brothers movies in the Seventies, the film bears all the hallmarks of his work. In other words: a mind-boggling mystery laced with fantasy elements, eccentric plot twists, a little eroticism and of course breakneck gravity-defying martial arts set-pieces. The action choreographed by Lau Chi-Ho and Ching Siu-Tung, future director of A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), is on par with many of the wild New Wave swordplay fantasies from this period and benefits from creative camera-work. Which is just as well given poor print quality and dodgy subtitling leave the plot a little hard to follow. Things take a confusing and surreal turn when black magician Squire Lu (Su Chen-Ping) enters the third act revealing he keeps his saintly twin brother Master Tien (also Su Chen-Ping) imprisoned in a mirror. Like you do. This leads to a memorable battle where the wizard's severed hands shoot forth like rockets.

Gore fans will appreciate the limb-lopping violence while connoisseurs of the kitschier aspects of wu xia cinema can savour the colourfully-costumed comic book bad guys that include fanged demons and masked fiends among their number. Versatile Taiwanese filmmaker Chester Wong Chung Gwong debuted with the martial arts movie My Life's On the Line (1978) starring chop-socky fan-favourite Leung Kar-Yan. He dabbled in comedy (Cute Foster Sister (1979)), sexploitation (Queen Bee (1981) and its sequel Queen Bee's Revenge (1981)), horror (Living Soul in Dead Body (1981), The Vampire Dominator (1984)) and family fare (My Father is Not a Thief (1987)) before ending his career with the romantic drama Tokyo Doll (1988).

Throughout various wacky plot twists and turns Adam Cheng maintains a debonair demeanour as the unflappably intrepid hero. One of the more charming aspects of the story is Gen's warm, nurturing relationship with his female allies. He goes out of his way to boost their confidence and enhance their skills. The film pleasingly gives the likes of genre stalwarts Candice Yu, Ming Ming and Liu Chia-Fen equal opportunity to outwit bad guys and even save Gen's life. Naturally they are all smitten with Gen and vie for his affections, some subtly by affecting disdain, others not so subtly. Towards the finale even Squire Lu's daughter (Mary Wong Ma-Lee) inexplicably pledges her undying love despite having next to no interaction with Gen throughout the movie. Fair enough though, he's played by Adam Cheng.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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