The Assassin (1993)




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Hong Kong filmmaker Chung Siu-hung directed this gory historical fantasy which relies on colorful visuals and bloody violence to carry its straightforward plot line. Mainland actor Zhang Fengyi stars as Tong Po-ka, who is captured by a group of soldiers along with his lover Yiu (Rosamund Kwan). Yiu is taken from Tong and he is charged with kidnapping, tortured, and finally has his eyelids sewn shut as punishment. When he is forced to battle several other prisoners to the death, Tong nevertheless emerges victorious and is renamed Tong Chop and given the task of chief assassin for the entire kingdom. With his partner Wong Kau (Max Mok), Tong carries out a number of gruesome assassinations, frequently ending with the victim's graphic dismemberment. Like the reluctant hit man in Andy Warhol's Bad, however, Tong finally draws the line at killing a child, and leaves his post to find Yiu, who has married and given birth to a baby in the interim. As might be expected, neither his superiors nor his former partner are very happy about Tong's retirement, and it isn't long before he finds himself having to fight to save his own life once again. With wire-enhanced stunts of the type popularized in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and a category II-level of bloodshed more typical of Kenji Misumi's ultraviolent Japanese epics, The Assassin is more for fans of sensory excess than story, but it is a rousing example of the form. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

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