Directed by Joseph Kuo, who wrote it with Shui-Han Chiang and Tien-Yung Hsu, Yi dai jian wang tells the tale of Tsai Lai-Chieh (Peng Tien, Return of the 18 Bronzemen), who as a child had his entire family — nearly sixty members in all, killed by five martial arts masters. He has trained his entire life to destroy them, which is a plot that could be any other martial arts or wuxia movie, but this transcends the form with the last target of his vengeance — symbolized by the wooden names he keeps on his belt and breaks with each step toward killing them all — being a blind and broken old man that realizes that he deserves death.
La-Chieh is joined by two equally incredible fighters, Flying Swallow (Polly Kuan, Shi er sheng xiao) and Black Dragon (Chiang Nan, The Magic Blade), a swordsman dedicated to being the best of the best, even if that means that he must wait and help Lai-Chieh pay his blood debt to his family before they inevitably fight to the death. I loved how La-Chieh is willing to admit that Black Dragon is a better fighter than him, but his tenuous friend can only know through a duel which will destroy one of them. They save him for an attack with arrows and poison darts, giving him time to heal and get back on the bloody road of retribution.
This movie gets a lot of jaw-dropping scenery, bloody swordplay and even laughs in the midst of all the pathos and blood being spilled, adding up to a movie that inspires one to seek out more from everyone involved in its creation.
Want to see it for yourself?
You can watch The Swordsman of All Swordsmen next Saturday, April 22 at 3:30 PM in Theater 2 and Sunday, April 23 at 1 PM in Theater 2 at Metrograph and Subway Cinema in New York City. It’s part of the 10th Old School Kung Fu Fest: Sword Fighting Heroes Edition from April 21-30, 2023!
Tickets are on sale right here!