Tai Seng attempts once again to take a 31 episode tv drama that are one hour long episodes and condense it into a two hour film. It is disjointed, the number of characters that pop up and then are never to be seen again gets very confusing but it does offer an enjoyable audio commentary that helps explain things from time to time.
The fact that they have titled this The Assassin Swordsman and features Nicky Wu on the cover instead of calling it Treasure Venture or even as it is also known as Swordgirl is pretty insulting to actress Vicki Zhao who is in all 31 episodes where according to IMDB Nicky Wu is only in 16 episodes. NOTE: Different sites will give you a different number of actual episodes some say 20, 31, or even 40. It depends on which country it was edited for and how long each episode was.
The Assassin Swordsman is kind of Tomb Raider meets Indiana Jones type of Wuxia. This is an original story and is not based off of a wuxia novel as many are. The entire plot revolves around three keys that will get them to the MacGuffin <cough> I mean the treasure in the Ming Emperors tomb. You have many factions going after the Mac…I mean treasure, you have the East Chamber Eunuchs headed by Cao Youxiang played by Liu Xun, the Japanese, of who taught Nicky Wu’s character martial arts there for he is split between serving his Sifu or Cao Youxiang , and of course our heroine and her crew. If that doesn’t confuse you enough then there is a love quadrangle mixed into the story. This edited version, much like the master swordsman lu xiaofeng, is very hard to follow because so much was take out. However if you like fight scenes Siu-Tung Ching is the action director. He is well known for his work in Shaolin Soccer, House of Flying Daggers, and A Chinese Ghost Story. So the action shots are really fun to watch. One reviewer said that the film was basically just one big edit of all the fight scenes from the TV series.
If you have read any of my previous blog posts I talk about how women will pretend to be men in Wuxia shows. Vicki Zhao’s character does this a lot and it can be confusing as Chinese Cinema is high context, meaning it is expected for the audience to know this already so it is not explained constantly like you would get in most western shows and movies. A good hint though is the amount of lip gloss she is wearing at the time.
Vicki Zhao (The Duel, Shaolin Soccer, Red Cliff) is our heroine Lu Jianping
Nicky Wu (The Bride with White Hair TV series) plays Shui Ruohan. An agent of the East Chamber who was educated and trained in Japan. He is in love with Lu Jianping
Lin Jianhuan plays Prince Zhu Yulong. He loves Lu Jianping and the Emperor has promised her hand in marriage.
Gu Baoming plays Wuma. Lu Jiangping’s mentor and “Nanny” since she was a baby. He is a Japanese Ronin who has been hired by Jiangping’s father to teach her martial arts.
Shun Lau is the evil Eunuch Cao Youxiang. Shun Lau is best known for playing Wong Kei-Yin in the Once Upon a Time in China series.
Cao Jun and Hao Shaowen play the little monks
Bai Ruixue played by Liu Zi is Ruohan’s fellow apprentice and she is in love with him, and hates Jianping.
That is only a small list, very small list, of characters and you can already see how confusing it can be with who loves who, what connection, if any, to the Japanese they have. There is a lot of lying going on between everyone but Lu Jianping, she is the only person that doesn’t seem to be lying. There is intrigue, backstabbing, betrayal, and fights and this is only a two hour condensed version! I am really going to have to find time to watch the full series. Despite some negative reviews I’ve seen it did really well in the ratings when it came out back in 2000. The audio commentary for the Tia Seng edition is also very informative.
SPCNET Treasure Venture review and synopsis