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The East Is Red Swordsman III

The latest "Swordsman" sequel is daft, energetic fun sure to entertain regular Hong Kong action customers around the globe. But narrative incoherence won't assist crossover appeal in Western territories. Gender-bending content won it a slot in bicoastal lesbian and gay fests, though interp of these aspects as liberating or merely exploitative is strictly in the eye of the beholder.

The latest “Swordsman” sequel is daft, energetic fun sure to entertain regular Hong Kong action customers around the globe. But narrative incoherence won’t assist crossover appeal in Western territories. Gender-bending content won it a slot in bicoastal lesbian and gay fests, though interp of these aspects as liberating or merely exploitative is strictly in the eye of the beholder.

The frenzy commences with a recap of “Swordsman II’s” final bout, in which supernaturally cross-gendered Asia the Invincible (Brigitte Lin) was ostensibly vanquished by smitten Koo (Yu Rong-Guang). Arriving as shepherd of a treacherous Spanish military ship, Koo soon discovers his contentious former flirtation object has only been playing dead.

Asia is a dangerous, Kali-like super-antihero, alternatively merciless and sympathetic. This reconstituted lesbian warrior-wizard takes vengeance on a slew of “pretend Asia the Invincibles” that have cropped up across the country. Asia’s former lover Snow (Joey Wong) is principal among her adherents, and the most anxiously repentant.

One fanciful battle follows another, colorfully brought to life by increasingly cheesy special effects — flying characters, unconvincing nautical miniatures, etc. Story confusion reigns. Anti-Western sentiments are heavily thumped in passing, as Asia giddily orders the Spaniards to replace God’s name with her own in the Bible.

Acting is appropriately florid, photo and editing aspects dizzy but tightly wound. This chaotic entertainment machine has plenty of oomph. Yet a bit more care in the scripting department would do “Swordsman IV” a major favor.

The East Is Red Swordsman III

(Hong Kong -- Color)

  • Production: A Golden Princess/Rim Film Distributors Inc. presentation of a Film Workshop production. Produced by Tsui Hark. Directed by Ching Siu-Tung, Raymond Lee. Screenplay, Tsui Hark, Roy Szeto, Carbon Cheung.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Lau Moon-Tong; editor, Chiang Chuen-Tak; music, Wu Wai-Lap; art direction, Eddie Ma; costumes, William Chang, Mark Chiu; martial arts direction, Ching Siu-Tung; associate producers, Lee, Tung. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Intl. Film Festival, June 4, 1993. (In the New Festival, N.Y.) Running time: 95 min.
  • With: With: Brigitte Lin, Joey Wang, Yu Rong-Guang, Jean Wang.
  • Music By: