The martial arts on display in Legend of the Bat are a wild and wonderful mixture of sword fights and kungfu clashes with plenty of supernatural abilities on display. People can punch through walls, jump over buildings, fight off dozens of attackers, and chop off their arm without giving it a second thought.
At one point during the closing moments of They Call Her… Cleopatra Wong, I paused to reflect upon the fact that I had been watching mustached men dressed as nuns shooting each other in slow motion for what seemed like twenty minutes, and that, while I had been moderately entertained by the spectacle, it certainly hadn’t inspired anything close to the stunned incredulity that such a scenario would seem to warrant.
The action may indeed be bad, but there’s a lot of it. Like Melissa Moore and Cat Sassoon, all this movie wants to do is entertain you. And like its stars, the results are pretty feeble even if the effort is enthusiastic.
It looks beautiful, the actors and the characters that they play are incredibly appealing, the action is wonderfully staged and literally non-stop, and the atmosphere is so rich with romance and intrigue that it’s enough to send you into a ninety minute swoon.
Dudikoff may not be much of an actor, but he’s not so bad that you’d be shocked by how bad he is. He’s well-suited for the role, and he has Steve James on hand to provide some actual charisma
There are no eagles in it, and the acting and writing are nothing to highlight in your acting or writing class, but the cast is fun, the action is plentiful, and everything moves along nicely.
Aoki and Valance seem to possess almost no athletic ability whatsoever, and so to pass them off as fighters, Yuen relies on gravity-defying wirework and jumpy editing, as well as a dollop of CGI. He does the most he can with what little he has, but no one is going to be mistaking these gals for legitimate fighters. Even Hsu Chi was more believable.
As far as anything-goes martial arts mayhem may go, the Bastard Swordsman saga may lack the breakneck choreography of Jackie Chan and Ching Siu-tung, or the technical ambition of Tsui Hark, but none of these short-comings really matter in the long run, because Bastard Swordsman and Return of the Bastard Swordsman are still spectacularly fun wuxia fantasies.
Although people come for the weirdness and spectacle, Bastard Swordsman offers plenty of other elements that make it worth staying around. For starters, taking a note from Chu Yuan, Lu’s film is packed with complex, well-developed characters. Norman Chu makes a compelling and empathetic lead. We root for him when he’s the abused underdog, and we cheer for him once he begins to discover his true potential as a fighter.
The musical numbers are lame. The plot is full of holes so big that Commando could drive a truck covered in ninjas through them. Everything is slapdash and cheap looking. The special effects are horrible. But man, who gives a crap about any of that when you have a slightly out-of-shape Mithrun running around in a Michael Jackson vest, fighting a guy in a Captain Harlock jacket and facing off against backflipping ninjas?