Jade Warrior is a strange little flick. I knew its production history for a while (it's a joint Chinese/Finnish creation that takes place in two separate eras in time — in ancient China and modern day Finland — and mixes martial arts period piece with 21st Century romance [and blacksmithery]), and was actually more intrigued than scared of it. I mean, that mix is kind of like, well, a Chinese/Finnish restaurant — two strange tastes that would taste strange together, but still double-dog dare worthy (and I love a good dare). Then I saw the preview... What the fuck? Was that really some dopey-looking, round-eyed European as the main character in a 2nd Century B.C. China setting? Ugh, no thank you. It had the appearance of a Christopher Lambert look-alike in a straight to DVD movie. Hell, possibly straight to Sci-Fi Channel movie. Maybe starring Christopher Lambert himself. Double-ugh!
But then I ordered an assload of DVDs from my HK distributor, and he accidentally replaced my copy of Taitei no Ken (Alexander's Sword) with Jade Warrior. At this point I thought it must be fate, so I gave in and watched it. In the end I'm pretty glad that I did.
Jade Warrior starts off a little slow, but once it finds its pace and its special purpose it really comes alive. It is indeed a strange concoction, what with all the backward and forward flipping through time and civilizations that it does, but the payoff for this gimick is well earned. Anyway, we begin the tale with the Christopher Lambert guy's ex-girlfriend selling a bunch of his Chinese artifacts and shit to some antiques dealer in modern day Finland (though who could really tell [modern day, the 1970s, the 12th Century... It's fucking Finland]). This leads to the antique dealer figuring out that some of Lambert's stuff is really special/supernatural, and he heads off to meet with the poor sap in order to figure out what the hell his hawked Chinese crap is all about. Well, Lambert is really just some down-on-his-luck blacksmith (who only took up smithing in the first place to impress his now ex-girlfriend), and he has no idea what his pawned off stuff really is, but soon they get this one ancient, magical chest to open and then the shit hits the fan (well, at least things start to get interesting at this point). The smith starts having flashbacks to another life where he was a half-breed (his mother was "from the frozen North", and daddy was a master Chinese smith himself) warrior in the first Chinese dynasty (a few thousand years ago), who was fated to slay an evil demon and in turn attain pure enlightenment and an eternity in Nirvana. But of course there was a girl who had to get involved.
This chick was hot and all, and she and the warrior got really close really fast (Disney movie fast), but it turns out that she was already betrothed to (and deeply in love with) the half-breed warrior's number one manservant (who she thought was long dead). This leads to not betrayal and anger on the warrior's part (as most hackneyed dramas would shit out onto the screen like a malfunctioning Slurpee machine), but understanding and hope. Hope for another lifetime and another chance. Then some nice twists of fate pull everything together and compose a finale that was so well constructed and realized that I felt ashamed that I even once doubted this flick.
That's the best I can sum things up without any major spoilers as I think this movie is really worth seeing. I don't want to ruin a good thing, you know.
Anyway, the plot was good, and the visuals were... well, they were all right. Nothing spectacular. No Curse of the Golden Flower or Hero to be sure, but they got the job done. The Chinese fight scenes were well choreographed too, but once again they were no Crouching Tiger or hell, ANY Jet Li or early Jackie Chan movie. They were acceptable though. The only thing that really turned me away until I got used to the idea was the round-eye in the middle of ancient China. Yes, the connection to the Finnish blacksmith was the whole point of the story (which separates fine films like this from shit like Dragon Wars [which takes ancient Asian folklore and unceremoniously dumps it in a modern foreign land setting for no goddamn reason at all]), but it still felt like it was just trying something new in order to be different. But as I said (many times already) above, it made this seemingly silly plot point believable in the end.
Arrrrrrrrr. This tale of lust and savage beatings brought me back to a time when I was washed upon the shores of a distant island filled with nothing but black-haired, bowl-cut little people with slanty eyes. Arrrr. They worshipped me like a god, and let me feast upon their women-folk until me little Skipper could not take no more. Then I just had to start bashing heads in for they began to bring forth stuff like octopusses and monkeys and shit to me with the expectation that we do the horizontal hacksaw too... Arrr, I'll never know if they wanted me to actually produce an offspring with any of those creatures, but at least I found out the answer to one of mariners' greatest questions: Yes, you can build a raft out of dead monkeys. And it's good for eatin' too. Arrrrrrr.
Hello, everybody. Did you see Highlander? That was a fantastic movie. Did you see Highlander 2? Despite people attacking it like crazy since its initial release, it still holds a warm spot in my heart. Highlander 3 with Coolio (or whoever that dark fellow was) was okay, but then they killed me in the 4th Highlander movie... Or was it the 5th? Oh, and I did that Fortress movie, which was a change of pace because it was the first feature film I ever did that did not involve me dressing up in a trenchcoat with tennis shoes and a sword. Oh, and I also played Lord Rayden in the first Mortal Kombat (they didn't even tell me they were making a 2... Which is okay because it sucked without me!), and I was also Beowulf. No, not in the good computer generated version, but Beowulf nonetheless. I played Tarzan in Greystoke, but that really wasn't acting, so I don't think I can count that.
My point in mentioning all these great Highlander (and other) movies of my glorious career is that try as I might I cannot remember starring in this Jade Warrior picture, nor learning Finnish or Chinese! Yet there I stood, right there on the screen like that, looking all Lamberty (as I call it). Very strange. I probably had sex with that hot Asian chick AND that blonde in the Finnish portion of the movie. You know they tasted some of my little immortal... I was Connor Mac-fucking-Leod! There can BE only one!