Jianyu (Reign of Assassins)

2010

Jianyu (Reign of Assassins)

Critics Consensus

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70%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 10

73%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,382
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Movie Info

Elusive assassin Drizzle transforms herself into modest shop owner Zeng Jing (Michelle Yeoh) in order to transport the remains of an exalted Buddhist monk to their eternal resting place, but finds her mission unexpectedly complicated when she falls in love with Jiang, a fierce warrior posing as a typical messenger. According to legend, the monk's remains possess untold powers. In order to ensure that they do not fall into the possession of the Dark Stone gang, the former killer goes into deep hiding. Adopting the name Zeng Jing, she marries Ah-Sheng (Woo-sung Jung) and together the couple plans to live out their days in peace. But when he Dark Stone gang turns up in search of the missing remains, the truth about Zeng's past begins to emerge. Before long, Zeng realizes that her husband Ah-Sheng also harbors some dark secrets - secrets that only begin to emerge once the battle lines are drawn and the swords start to clash. Longtime producing partners John Woo and Terence Chang reteam for this period martial arts film set in A.D. 428, and co-directed by Woo and Su Chao-pin. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Jianyu (Reign of Assassins)

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (1)

  • A John Woo-chaperoned, Michelle Yeoh-starring martial arts adventure is a bit run-of-the-mill.

    Feb 14, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • After a decent enough opening it becomes a fairly ordinary affair, the principal attraction residing in the heroine's weirdly flexible sword.

    Feb 17, 2013 | Full Review…
  • A female warrior attempts to leave her killing days behind in this polished but overblown Chinese period swordplay adventure.

    Feb 15, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The flashing blades and swirling choreography of the endless fight scenes and the charisma of Yeoh keep you engaged but the end result falls far short of her Crouching Tiger triumph a decade ago.

    Feb 15, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • the film uses its wire-fu trappings to allegorise Buddhist notions of self-transformation in a world of illusions. Throw in some inventive chopsocky tempered by romance, and you have a fatalistic wuxia about the martial pursuit of a "normal life".

    Feb 15, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Although it drags on a little too long, this Chinese martial arts flick is thoroughly entertaining, thanks to its even pace, strong performances and impressive choreography.

    Feb 14, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Jianyu (Reign of Assassins)

  • Mar 18, 2014
    [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 03, 2011
    A solid story with interesting characters and impressive choreography helps propel REIGN OF ASSASSINS onto a level of filmmaking seen very rarely in Chinese cinema's recent memory; it is a wuxia film that consistently includes both action and sustained drama, and succeeds in pulling off both. Avoiding cliche pitfalls or nationalistic overtones, ASSASSINS features Michelle Yeoh in star-power form as she is surrounded by a colorful cast - some who falter but not enough to deter momentum - as well as strong direction and exciting martial arts that is executed gracefully- fights range from various locales along with wide varieties of weapons. For an industry that appears too focused on quantity, it is quite a relief to see a quality film like this one get made.
    Sheldon C Super Reviewer
  • May 17, 2011
    Very shallow: no character development, irritating editing and a very poor script that's just used to connect the action sequences to each other. The cinematography looks good and the action scenes are stunning and amongst the best in Wuxia cinema but overall this film is so shallow that I can't give more than 1/10/
    William H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 25, 2011
    In the beginning I found the story a bit confusing but I got the hang of it!Ten years ago, Lee Ang's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" breathed new life into the 'wuxia' genre and opened up the world of Chinese cinema to mainstream Western audiences. Had "Reign of Assassins" arrived ten years earlier, it could have very well have achieved the same groundbreaking success as Lee Ang's classic, for make no mistake- this dazzling martial arts epic ranks among one of the best of its kind. In writer/director Su Chao-Pin's ancient China- as told over an enchanting animated sequence- there are different sects of assassins after the ancient remains of a mystical Indian monk. Among the most deadly are a squad known as the Dark Stone, led by the formidable and distinctively raspy-voiced Wheel King (Wang Xueqi). Drizzle (Kelly Lin) is the most powerful member of the squad, but she has had enough of her life of killing and goes under the knife to emerge as Zeng Jing (Michelle Yeoh). Just the names of the characters will do well to convince you that this is pure fantasy, but while the world may be make-believe, the characters within them are firmly grounded. Su's script takes its time in the first hour to set up the romance between Zeng Jing and messenger boy Jiang Ah-Sheng (Korean star Jung Woo-sung)- their courtship unfolding with a gentle touch of humour and more than a hint of the film's title - as well as their subsequent married life. Audiences waiting for some action will have to be a bit more patient, as Su wants his audience to get to know his characters well and gives them time to grow on you. It is almost a good hour into the film by the time Wheel King and his gang of assassins- Lei Bin (Shawn Yue), the Magician (Leon Dai) and Zhan Qing (Barbie Hsu)- track down Zeng Jing on their quest to find the remains. Yet the care and attention to detail that Su pays to each one of his characters pays off beautifully in the second half. Refusing to cast his characters as black-and-white heroes and villains, Su gives each a back-story that blends slickly into the various circumstances the plot throws them into. And in between the balletic action choreographed by Hong Kong's Tung Wai, Su draws on the relationships among the various characters for some intriguing drama- especially the dynamics between Zeng Jing, Wheel King and his three fellow assassins. It is this tight characterisation that holds the second half of the film together. While the plot in the first half may seem "Mr and Mrs Smith" simplistic in its portrayal of a married couple unaware of the other's past, the second half of the film is anything but. Unfolding with twists and turns, it builds on an engaging first hour to become even more absorbing, culminating in a breathtaking and ultimately touching emotional finish that reaffirms the power of love to overcome hatred and vengeance and self-sacrifice. Though Su's film is heavy on drama, it also delivers on the action where it matters. Tung Wai avoids any pretentious visual effects in favour of old-school wire-ful swordplay in all its grace and poeticism- though he does use modern-day technology to throw in some nifty moves like bending swords and flying needles in slo-mo. The very first confrontation between Zeng and her enemies in her house is enough to set your pulse racing, and Tung Wai tops that with another equally, if not more, thrilling fight in her house later on and a two-way fight in an open courtyard. Su is less of a director of action films (his filmography reads the 2002 comedy "Better than Sex" and the 2006 horror film "Silk"), so the fact that the action sequences in here have turned out well must have been due in part to producer John Woo's participation as co-director. Woo's involvement has also ensured the excellent cast assembled here. Michelle Yeoh's role in this film is a welcome return to form for the actress that has not had such a meaty role tailor-made for her since Lee Ang's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". Her natural beauty and elegance complements Zeng Jing's graceful assassin perfectly and serves as a good foil against co-star Jung Woo-sung's rugged handsomeness. Yeoh and Jung also share great chemistry, and it is firmly to their credit that the film ends on a deeply poignant note. Like the best of its genre, "Reign of Assassins" has all the ingredients for a modern-day 'wuxia' classic- tight characterisation, compelling drama and exciting action topped with fantasy elements. Su Chao-pin and John Woo have created a genre classic ten years after Lee Ang's masterpiece and it is a thrilling and poignant experience worthy of the best martial arts epics. As the story goes, a group of assassins called Dark Stone, led by Wheel King (Wang Xueqi) has come into possession of half those remains, but Kelly Lin's Drizzle took flight with that and plenty of gold to become a fugitive of her own group - Leon Dai as The Magician, Shawn Yue as Lei Bin and new rookie Zhang Qing (Barbie Tsu) who had joined the team. In a Face/Off turn, she goes under the knife and now has the face of Michelle Yeoh (whoa!), living in disguise in the city, flying below the radar and effectively living the simple, ordinary life she yearns for, with absolutely no need for picking up the sword, though always kept handy at home just in case trouble comes knocking. The pan-Asia A-list cast is something that will draw attention to the film, coming from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Korea. It's been some time since I last saw a wuxia film that featured a female swordsman as the lead, and being the anti-heroine at that as well. Starting off as a killer, Michelle Yeoh's Zeng Jing is unfortunately dubbed over, though I suspect for a valid reason that we'll have to live with in this film. In fact, more than one more character has voice issues that I cannot elaborate, and when revealed you'd start to wonder whether martial arts films can ever distance itself from that kind of villain from the courts, which is rather clichéd. Yeoh will undoubtedly bring comparisons with her other famous martial arts role from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, although here Barbie Hsu's no Zhang Ziyi to steal that thunder or limelight, being cast as a psychotic nymphomaniac with a penchant to shed her clothes in the hope of climbing the power ladder (sorry guys, no nudity involved). What shines in this film is the rich characterization beyond the usual one-dimensional characters in most martial arts flick, which gives the viewer a richer experience as we get emotionally invested in the plight of the characters. Everyone seems to want a way out of their usual kill or be killed drudgery, though it's one thing leaving the Jiang Hu altogether and retire, and another if you actually belong to a gang of bandits and assassins where your ex- buddies just won't leave you alone. The story allowed for any available screen time to pause for a while to present the other, ordinary side of the characters where we see their hopes and dreams, whether be it settling down, gaining some worldly possession. I had initially wondered why Wang Xueqi was cast since he's an incredible actor but had little to do in the first half of the film other than to look mean and nasty, but then realized that you need an actor of gravitas to pull off what he did in the latter half of the film, which in the hands of a lesser actor could have been really comical. Instead he brought that sense of an obsessed man whose desperate for what's almost an impossible change or dream, which form the crux of all misery. The other actor to be admired here is Korean actor Jung Woo-sung who plays a courier and falls in love with Zeng Jing. Spending time to ensure he learns his Mandarin dialogue as accurately as possible so that when dubbed over it will look convincing, I will have to agree that he pulled it off, and his good looks fit right into this period piece with some surprises up the sleeve. Action fans will have something to look forward to in the film, as it spends time crafting kinetically charged sword-fighting scenes which at times I felt the quick cuts didn't do those choreographed moves much justice. However everyone pretty much battles everyone else, which accentuates the good old wuxia adage of it being perfectly normal if self-preservation happens to be the order of the day. Throw in motivations of revenge, lust (though very subtle) and jealousy especially with two women characters sharing the same scene, we know we're in for a good time, especially when the story's kept tight and compact. Some wonderful set action pieces like the one in the bank and the disturbance at home all make for good entertainment, and clearly with John Woo absent from giving his two cents worth in these scenes (no slow motions if you get what I mean), though not always necessarily for the better as the quick cuts sometimes get in the way of appreciating the hard work gone behind the designing of such battles, which are wire-enhanced. At its core Reign of Assassins is a romantic tale steeped in tragic irony, with martial arts film fans likely to lap up an out and out fantastical wuxia film. Almost all the characters have a past they want to cease remembering, and are harbouring plans for a new life sans violence. Love of course plays a part in the determination of this second chance, but this calls for sacrifice that we see once enemies now lovers have got to embrace as they decide to come clean with their feelings, alongside twists that get revealed especially in the final act. Compared to Detective Dee this may not seem as epic nor groundbreaking in terms of offering something new to an audience, but it is essentially its sublime essence in knowing what's critical in a wuxia film and doing that well, at times giving you that feeling of having watched a classic martial arts film of old now remade with a stellar cast and knowing how best to appeal to a modern audience. Highly recommended and it powers its way into my shortlist at the end of the year as well. Set in ancient China, Zeng Jing is a skilled assassin who finds herself in possession of a mystical Buddhist monk's remains. She begins a quest to return the remains to its rightful resting place, and thus places herself in mortal danger because a team of assassins is in a deadly pursuit to possess the remains which holds an ancient power-wielding secret.
    Sergio E Super Reviewer

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