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The Legend of the Shadowless Sword
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Legend of the Shadowless Sword, The (DVD)
927 A.D. The Killer-Blade Army has toppled the ruling dynasty, plunging the kingdom into chaos. The only remaining heir, Prince Jung-Hyun (Lee Seo Jin) is living in exile, unaware of his family's dark fate. Still loyal to the dynasty, the beautiful and deadly warrior Soha (Yoon Soy) sets out to find Jung-Hyun and guide him to become the great leader he was born to be. But with the Army's greatest assassins and the criminal underworld hunting them, Soha and Jung-Hyun are swept into an explosive, nonstop battle of swords, wits and bloodshed as they fight to reclaim the fallen throne.]]>
A Wuxia adventure out of South Korea, The Legend of the Shadowless Sword is a handsome martial arts epic by Kim Yung-jun (Flying Warriors). The film's simple story allows for exceptionally creative action sequences about every three to four minutes, while simultaneously building a noble tale full of faith, love, and sacrifice. A beautiful female warrior named Yeonsoha (Yoon So-yi) goes in search of the last, living prince of the Balhae dynasty and its kingdom, overrun years before by the Geordan empire. The prince, Jeong Hyeon (Seo Jin Lee), has been in hiding 14 years as a black market trader, concerned primarily for his own safety and deeply cynical about any thought of going back to retrieve his family's throne. Yeonsoha, however, proves persuasive, especially in light of the many attempts on Jeong's life by a gang of assassins. The shady killers are led by a vengeance-seeking Kun (Hyeong Jun-Shin) and his assistant, (Ki-Yong Lee), another sword-wielding babe who gets into plenty of wild skirmishes with Yeonsoha.
The story essentially follows Jeong and Yeonsoha's efforts to get back to a waiting army of Balhae exiles awaiting a king's leadership. As the hours and days pass, Jeong gets in touch with the man he once was, a fearless warrior whose exploits on the battlefield are well-known to Yeonsoha, whose connection to the prince seems mysteriously personal. The film's numerous fight scenes are never redundant, employing all manner of props and ideas for exciting fights. But it's the performances that really hold everything together, the deep if understated emotions and the excitement of watching two mismatched lead characters slowly realize how important they are to one another. --Tom Keogh
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Top customer reviews
The two leading women were inspiring. Yun So-i is brilliant as Soha, the beautiful ninja-like warrior where the bad guys cringe at hearing she’s involved. Ki-yong Lee as bad-guy-Mae had me feeling her pain. Their martial skills were profound. Lee Seo-jin as the prince in hiding did a wonderful job evolving the character from meh to wow. Well done.
Definitely a must see.
Despite plenty of nicely ludicrous wire-fu action set-pieces, Shadowless takes itself pretty seriously. This can create some moments of cultural dissonance, like whenever Sosam tries to soulfully emote something from underneath what to western eyes looks like 80s-style action hero mullet. I got the feeling the movie was really looking for a domestic audience, so you may need to meet it half-way to appreciate it. If you can manage that, there is a pretty good story here between all the fisticuffs and sword duels. Soha's unflagging faith in a man who initially seems entirely unworthy of it is what gives the tale its emotional weight, and serves as a foil for her counterpart in the Goryeo army, Mae (who believes completely in somebody who actually *is* unworthy of it).
Despite its absurd and often awesome fight scenes, Shadowless is best enjoyed unironically. Recommended.
SS is from the same director that gave us Bichunoo, another fantastic film. It has a great cast from films like "Guns and Talks" and "Arahan". SS is a swordplay epic. For the laymen, it would be in the same vein of a Crouching Tiger or a Hero or House of Flying Daggers. Period piece, acrobatic wire-fu, lots of swordplay. And while it may not have the budget, star power, and exposure of the previously mentioned films, it can absolutely hold its own against them.
The acting is spot on. The story, while not anything new, is still very engaging. And the action is certainly well worth the watch. Although not quite as graceful as some of it's HK counterparts, the wire work is creative and integrated well into the sequences. The visual approach is stylish without being over-the-top. And it does have a great score, too.
Fans of asian swordplay movies would be wise to give this one a look. It doesn't have the depth of story and character that those looking for something more in the drama category are looking for. And while the action is great, it's not wild and insane like a Kitamura movie or a Hark film, and certainly not as blood-filled. The action sequences would be considered reserved compared to how those guys work. So if you're looking for a good, solid swordplay epic that is subtle and understated while being quite entertaining and action-oriented, this would be a fine choice.