Reign of Assassins is quite similar to Mr. & Mrs. Smith in which Michelle Yeoh and Jung Woo-Sung play a married couple, each unaware the spouse is a world-class assassin. Without heavy resort to visual effects, and without going too far down any one stylistic road, the film gives new life to the genre. Reign of Assassins is full of fantasy, yet still has romantic aspect that is rolled up in one neat little package. This is also a return to form from famed director John Woo who has gone on record stating that now he wants to make many more films in the booming Chinese film industry.
If you have seen any of the first wave of popular Asian films like Crouching Tiger, you will be right at home with this film. The first hour of the film the action is very balletic and exaggerated. Not to jump ahead, but the ending is moving and poetic and I wished this tone was carried throughout the film as a whole. Gone is the old school John Woo you know and love, replacing guns and bombs with flashing swordplay and fantasy effects. It gets better as it progresses and the plot twists and turns.
Malaysian-Chinese star, Michelle Yeoh, is cast perfectly. 10-year age difference between her and younger South Korean co-star Jeong actually bring s a surprising element to the movie. Though there’s no real trace of a Woo signature in the film, he was on set the entire time chiming in with advice and direction. This was to ensure that this visual treat should have no trouble finding kung fu audiences. It’s a kung fu epic that has an enourmous cast of villians. The remainder of the cast is excellent and everyone plays their part well.
If I could touch on the costume work, I would say it is hit and miss and probably won’t garner any Academy Awards come season time. It looks like a mixture of the look of classic movies from the ’60s and ’70s. This doesn’t exactly translate well since the film is set in China, in the early Ming dynasty. Some 800 or so years after the death of Buddhist monk-cum-legendary martial artist Bodhi, his long-lost remains are still sought after, as their owner will supposedly gain limitless power and rule over the martial arts world. Reign of Assassins is a intense thrill ride that will appeal to both fans of the martial arts and fans of art movies. Sure to please and thumbs up from this reviewer.