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Review: Dazzling special effects propel 'Flying Swords'

'The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate' is an entertaining eye-popper.

August 30, 2012|By Robert Abele
  • A scene from "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate."
A scene from "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate." (Handout )

Imax 3-D is hardly a passive moviegoing experience, especially if Hong Kong action impresario Tsui Hark is the one in charge of your field of vision. His latest wuxia extravaganza, "The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" — already a massive hit in Asia — is a spiky, over-the-top whir of the usual ingredients.

The film, which picks up where the 1993 epic "Dragon Inn" left off, features cruel Ming Dynasty imperials (led by Cher Kun's evil eunuch), dedicated warriors (including Jet Li) and mysterious personalities, all of whom converge at a rowdy desert inn that might sit atop a buried city with endless treasures.

Tsui's imagemaking skills are a savvy mix of modern-day kineticism and old-school movie composition pleasures. He enjoys close-ups of beautiful actresses in period finery as much as the rhythmic dash of wire fu and CGI.

But with the added oomph of large-format dimensional wizardry, the cumulative effect of sword battles with blade shards and ring-handled knives that spin and change direction is one of falling into a very big cinematic blender. And that's before the sandstorm tornado arrives.

"Flying Swords" is a chunky spectacle, to be sure – overstuffed with plot and characters — but at times, it's an insanely entertaining one.

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"The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate." MPAA rating: R for some violence. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes. At AMC Burbank 16 & Imax, Burbank.

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