ContactSales: China Film, Beijing ([email protected])
Theatrical release: China, 26 Jan 2011.
Presented by China Film Group (CN), Beijing Union Film Investment (CN), Zhonglian Jinghua Culture Communications (CN), Beijing Galloping Horse Film & TV Production (CN), Beijing Guoli Changsheng Movies & TV Productions (CN), China Movie Channel (CN), Cultural Troupe of the Air Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (CN). Produced by China Film Group Film Production (CN), China Movie Channel (CN). Executive producers: Han Sanping, Hao Yaning, Dong Ping, Li Ming, Zhang Guoli, Yan Xiaoming, Guo Xuxin. Producer: Zhao Haicheng.
Script: Ning Caishen. Photography: Wang Yu. Editing: Wei Nan. Music: Zhang Cun. Design: Xu Jiawei. Art direction: Sun Li. Costume design: Xu Jiawei. Sound: Tao Jing. Action: Li Cai. Effects: Chen Fei.
Cast: Yan Ni (Tong Xiangyu), Yao Chen (Guo Furong), Sha Yi (Bai Zhantang, Xiangyu's husband), Yu Entai (Lü Xiucai, Furong's husband), Ni Hongjie (Zhu Wushuang, the constable), Jiang Chao (Li Dazui, the cook), Xiao Jian (Ye Xiaoliu, the law official), Wang Lei (Ji Wuli, the assassin), Yue Yueli (Pei Zhicheng, the government official), Zhang Meng (Chichi, his ward), Fan Ming (Constable Xing), Wu Ma (Lou Zhixian), Wang Haoran (Feng Xiaohe).
My Own Swordsman 武林外傳
Costume martial arts comedy
2011, colour, 1.85:1, 96 mins
Directed by Shang Jing (尚敬)
By Derek Elley
Mon, 07 March 2011, 17:55 PM (HKT)
Entertaining film version of the 2006 hit Mainland sitcom has its own, big-screen personality. Genre and Asian events, plus niche ancillary potential.
Qixia town, China, Ming dynasty. Business is getting tougher all the time at Tongfu Inn, run by bottom-line businesswoman Tong Xiangyu, onetime widow of a martial arts hero and now married to younger wannabe hero Bai Zhantang (Sha Yi) and longing to start a family. Also working at the inn are former martial arts heroine Guo Furong (Yao Chen), who is now pregnant by her impoverished scholar husband Lü Xiucai (Yu Entai), and cook Li Dazui (Jiang Chao). Corrupt Revenue Ministry official Pei Zhicheng (Yue Yueli) arrives with his pretty young "ward" Chichi (Zhang Meng) on a mission to forcibly buy up properties to redevelop the town, and after a fracas at the inn in which he almost dies (several times) he calls in professional assassin Ji Wuli (Wang Lei) to kill off Tong and her associates. (Though purely driven by money, Ji has an axe to grind, as his elder brother Ji Wuming killed himself after being tricked by Lü.) Despite her husband's reluctance, Guo is in favour of moving out and buying a property on the quiet west bank of the river which Pei announces will be totally redeveloped, with a five-star hotel. After initially refusing Pei's offer, Tong has second thoughts and tries to soft-soap Pei into a deal by getting the town's only female constable, tomboyish martial artist Zhu Wushuang (Ni Hongjie), to butter him up. However, the meeting goes badly and Pei, suspecting he's under investigation by the authorities, goes into hiding and hires Ji to kill her and her wannabe boyfriend Ye Xiaoliu (Xiao Jian).
Already adapted into a 2006 online game, a 2007 stage prequel and a 2009 animated film, the phenominally successful 80-episode martial-arts sitcom My Own Swordsman (2006) had a high mountain to climb for a feature-film version. The surprise is that — with the original director and lead writer, plus virtually all the main cast, on board again — the result isn't a lazy, TV-style ploughing of the same furrow. Characters have been developed and slightly changed during the four-year gap so that they are still recognisable but have a fresh feel and dynamics; direction by SHANG Jing 尚敬 is big-screen cinema stuff, opening out the action to show the whole town rather than just the interior of the inn in which the CCTV series was set; and framing and editing are similarly cinematic. Even more notably, the movie has some of the liveliest and best-staged action-comedy seen so far in a Mainland movie without any offshore help: the finale in the booby-trapped inn is the equal of anything in a similar Hong Kong movie.
My Own Swordsman 武林外傳 (2011) starts right in the middle of a piece of action and assumes the audience is already familiar with all the characters and catchphrases. But by the time the plot — centred on the very contemporary problem of property speculation and real-estate development — gets into gear around the half-hour mark, the relationships and backgrounds are no real problem even for newcomers. Writer NING Caishen 寧財神, here back on much stronger ground than he's showed in his feature films in between (Color Me Love 愛出色 (2010), Just Call Me Nobody 大笑江湖 (2010)), uses many of the same ingredients that made the TV series such a hit — modern-style dialogue, anachronistic references, use of dialect and accents — as well as animation, parodies of TV and even karaoke. But they don't swamp the main movie, which has its own personality; and even a clip from the original series is used to explain the introduction of a new character (WANG Lei 王磊's very funny professional assassin, who is so money-obsessed that he carries round an abacus).
The major beneficiary from the characters' development is the inn-owner of lead actress YAN Ni 閆妮 (Cow 鬥牛 (2009)), now a broody businesswoman whose sudden rantings provide many of the comic highlights. The main loser is co-lead YAO Chen 姚晨, as now-pregnant, former martial artist Guo Furong: though Yao (Love in Cosmo 搖擺ｄｅ婚約 (2010)) is still a delight, her comic style seems a bit cramped here. Other roles, especially NI Hongjie 倪虹潔's tomboy police constable and SHA Yi 沙溢's wannabe martial arts hero, are all fine, and YUE Yueli 岳躍利 suffers stoically as the hapless villain. The sole Hong Kong contribution in the all-Mainland cast comes from veteran WU Ma 午馬 in an amusing Cantonese-speaking cameo. Exteriors, shot in picturesque Yi county, Anhui province, provide a satisfyingly local flavour.