Seven Swords (2005) - Two-Disc Ultimate Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Drama
Dragon Dynasty || NR - 153 minutes - $24.95 || January 16, 2007
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2007-01-14


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Hark Tsui
Writer(s): Yusheng Liang (novel 'Seven Swordsmen from Mountain Tian'); Chi-Sing Cheung, Tin Nam Chun, Hark Tsui (screenplay)
Cast: Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, Charlie Yeung, Liwu Dai, Chia-Liang Liu, Duncan Chow, Yi Lu


Theatrical Release Date: NA


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director & Hong Kong Cinema Expert Commentary
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • The Making of Seven Swords Featurette
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
  • Interview Gallery
  • Storyboard Gallery
  • Trailers and TV Spots


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1), Mandarin (DTS 5.1), Catonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Catonese (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

In the tradition of recent martial arts epics such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Musa the Warrior, Seven Swords is the latest of those types of epics only this time from veteran Hong Kong director Tsui Hark. Hark has been making films for decades in Hong Kong and is known especially for his Once Upon a Time in China trilogy with Jet Li. Hark also had his crack at making American films but unfortunately the results of that were Double Team starring Dennis Rodman and Jean Claude Van Damme and Knock Off, also with Van Damme and legendary thespian Rob Schneider. Thankfully, Seven Swords is much closer to his great Once Upon a Time in China series rather than Double Team or Knock Off.

The film begins with an edict from the emperor: all types of martial arts are outlawed and anyone seen practicing it will be decapitated. Each head serves as a reward and is worth 300 pieces of silver. The emperor has sent out 12 of his best assassins to enforce this edict around China. To counter these assassins, 7 swordsmen are sent to try and kill these assassins and protect the people. The film is actually based on a book called Seven Swordsmen from Mountain Tian by Liang Yu Sheng and could be seen as a kind of “Lord of the Rings” for Chinese literature.

All the actors do a great job with their performances in the film. The only actor American audiences might recognize is Donnie Yen, who has been in films like Hero, Shanghai Knights and Blade II. Perhaps the most charismatic performance is from the villain played by Sun Honglei. In these types of films, the heroes are only as good as the villains make them look and Honglei does a great job in the film. One of the best aspects of the film is the scenery and cinematography. Scenes on the mountains, snow and desert area are shot beautifully. The film has a “western” feel to it as well with the bronze color and horses in the desert. It is obvious that Hark was influenced by westerns like The Magnificent Seven as well as the original Japanese masterpiece Seven Samurai.

While the film is shot beautifully, it is obvious that several parts of the story are missing throughout. In the commentary, Hark continually mentions a 4 ½ hour edition of the film that he was forced to cut out. I think the main problem with the film is that Hark tries to go into too much detail with each of these 7 swordsmen so because of time, they are not developed as much as they should be. Obviously that makes for some confusing moments in the film because we do not see all the characters motivations that lead them to their specific actions. Another problem for me was that many of the female leads in the film have similar facial features and it was sometimes hard to separate who was who over the course of the film. It would be interesting to see what a longer version would be like although I am not sure about a 4 ½ hour version of any movie.

I still enjoyed the film a great deal for its great action sequences and fight choreography. The final fight between Donnie Yen’s character and Sun Honglei is definitely one of the best I’ve seen in any Asian epic film. While the film does have its share of wire work, it is still much less than what we see in films like Hero or Crouching Tiger. If you can get past the undeveloped subplots and love triangles, Seven Swords is actually a good film but had the potential to be a great one.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

As with their release of Tony Jaa’s The Protector, Dragon Dynasty once again does a fantastic job with producing this Ultimate Edition of Seven Swords. The only extra on the first disc is a commentary from Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan and director Tsui Hark. Throughout the commentary they both reference the 4 ½ hour cut and discuss what they cut out. It’s a very interesting commentary because foreign films rarely include commentaries. As in the commentary for The Protector, Bey Logan’s wealth of knowledge into Asian cinema as well as Tsui Hark’s insight makes the commentary fun to listen to. Both of them also cover topics such as the state of Hong Kong cinema today as well as Hark’s influences in making the film.

The second disc opens with a set of 7 deleted and alternate scenes from the film. For the most part, they are extended sequences that we already see in the film. All the scenes have no dialogue and are unfinished in terms of the final video quality. A temp track is added to each sequence to cover up for the lack of any sound. My only question is why there are only 23 minutes of deleted/alternate scenes included when a 4 ½ hour film is referenced dozens of times throughout the DVD?

The next extra is a behind the scenes that is split into 4 segments. None of the segments really have a theme. It runs about 20 minutes total and works more as a montage of behind the scenes footage rather than a traditional behind the scenes look with interviews. We see some outtakes, various locations, training and some insight into pre-production for the film.

The next extra is an interview gallery with director Tsui Hark and actors Donnie Yen, Zhang Jing-Chu and Duncan Lai.

Tsui Hark’s segment runs about 45 minutes and covers a wide range of topics. Hark discusses how he was handed the film to direct from Shaolin Temple director Cheh Chang. Hark discusses how he wanted the specific swords in the film to match the characters personality. Hark also talks about casting choices, locations and how he almost split the film into two separate releases because of all the detail he wanted to cover.

Donnie Yen’s segment runs 25 minutes and he mostly discusses his relationship with director Tsui Hark. Yen also talks about the language barrier he had with his Korean love interest in the film as well as his approach to choreography for his fight sequences.

Zhang Jing-Chu discusses her background and how she got into film in this 18 minute segment. She talks about Hark’s shooting technique, her character as well as difficulties in shooting in various locations. She also talks about how 1/3 of her scenes were cut from the final film which may be why some of the scenes look confusing in the film.

Duncan Lai also talks about how he got involved in acting in his 26 minute interview. Lai discusses his admiration for Tsui Hark and other Asian stars he got to work with in the film. Lai also talks about how the film was not long enough to cover all the characters and fully develop them. Lai discusses that a sequel for Seven Swords is very likely to happen in the future.

The next extra is a Making of Seven Swords featurette which runs about 18 minutes. In this featurette we get to hear more insight from the actors about their characters as well as various themes the film has.

Rounding out the extras is a gallery of almost 50 storyboards and a promotional gallery of trailers. Included are the U.S. trailer, Hong Kong teaser and full trailer as well as 4 TV Spots.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

The video and audio transfers are both very well done for the film.

The video transfer is beautiful especially with the scenes on the mountains and in the desert. The rich colors of the various costumes also come off very well.

The audio is also well done for the most part. The action sequences are crisp and the epic score comes off very well. The film is in English 5.1 as well as Cantonese/Mandarin 5.1 and 5.1 DTS.



.::OVERALL::.

As I mentioned before, like with their release of Tony Jaa’s The Protector, Dragon Dynasty has done a great job in putting together their Ultimate Edition of Seven Swords. Often times we see DVD’s that are labeled “special, collectors or ultimate editions” when in fact there is nothing special or ultimate about them. Fans of the film will greatly appreciate the wealth of extras included in this package. However, with all the talk of a 4 ½ hour cut, it would not surprise me of they decide to release another extended edition of the film. Nevertheless, this edition is still worth buying for the beautifully shot scenery and fantastic action sequences.