Xue di zi / The Guillotines (2012) - A modern twist on the wu xia genre - 6/10 (20/07/16)
"The Guillotines" is a wu xia movie with a lot of ups and downs. It's certainly interesting for genre fans and better than its reputation but far from being a highlight of the martial arts genre. The movie shows the story of an obsolete secret assassination squad on a dangerous mission whose members face elimination due to the emperor's will to radically revolutionize his empire.
On the negative side, this movie is clearly too long. Especially the first part of the movie where the assassination squad is discovering a remote village outpost has noticeable lengths. Another issue is that many of the characters in this squad lack depth or are represented in a childish way which makes it hard for the viewer to identify with them. Despite being a wu xia movie, the fighting scenes are mostly unspectacular and the special weapon of the assassination squad is clearly underused. A debatable issue is the ending of the movie which surprised me in a negative way. Instead of offering a final battle, the movie suddenly tries to offer a philosophical twist which doesn't fit with the rest of the movie.
On the positive side, the costumes, settings and soundtrack are what you expect of a solid wu xia production. The opening scene is already visually stunning and includes a few nice special effects that aren't overused throughout the movie. Some characters like the Guillotines members Leng and Musen, rebel leader Wolf, agent Haidu and the Qianlong Emperor have some depth and become more and more authentic and interesting as the movie progresses. Instead of focusing on predictable martial arts fights, this movie tries to innovate things by showing us the downsides of modern Western technology. While the ending of the movie feels somewhat disappointing and out of place, one can't deny that it comes as a surprise and is rather original from an objective point of view.
In the end, fans of Chinese action films, period movies and a modern type of wu xia cinema might want to watch this movie once. Those who are expecting a more traditional martial arts film might be disappointed since the movie focuses on fights with cannons, guns and fictional weapons instead of classic daggers or swords. After all, "The Guillotines" is a slightly above average genre flick but nothing more.« Konzerte in Deutschland- Teil zwei: AnthraxShi mian mai fu / House of Flying Daggers (2004) - An emotional drama carried by superb actors - 7/10 (20/07/16) »
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