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Featured DVD Review: Empire of Assassins

June 30th, 2011

Empire of Assassins - Buy from Amazon

Empire of Assassins is apparently related to Kung-Fu-Master, which I previously reviewed. I found that film to be as generic as its name. Is Empire of Assassins an improvement on its predecessor?

The Movie

The film starts with lots of people dying. We see the name of the Kung Fu school, then lots of people dying. We then learn that an evil overlord is killing all the people who might be able to oppose his reign. When a survivor of one of his previous campaigns tries to assassinate him, he puts into play a plan he first started 15 years ago. The assassin's name is Wu Ming, who believes he is the last remaining member of his family and he's come to avenge the death of his father, Zhang Heng. However, the evil overlord spared the lives of two of Zhang Heng's sons, but while he let Wu Ming go, he raised Ren Yi as his own son. Now he plans to pit the two brothers against each other, without letting either of them know who the other is.

There's a few more twists than that in the basic plot, but that's enough detail, especially for a martial arts movie, which is a genre where the plot can be superfluous and all we need is an interesting setup to get to the action. Unfortunately, the setup here is probably the best part of the movie. There's a lot of action, but it is poorly staged and very repetitive. Since most of the movie takes place in the evil overlord's fortress, we don't even get a lot of variation in locations for the fights. Furthermore, there's an overuse of "power powder". I believe that's the correct term. It's used to make impacts look more impressive, as each blow is accompanied by cloud of dust. But here is looks rather silly. Finally, the filmmakers continue the trend of using slow motion, and long-time readers know how sick I am of that technique.

While I was watching this movie, I thought to myself that if the filmmakers concentrated more on the characters and the plot, the film would have been a whole lot better. The acting was strong enough that what little plot there was was compelling to watch and the people involved probably could have made a good period drama. That is a compliment, but when the worst part of a martial arts movie is the martial arts, there's a serious problem.

The Extras

The DVD has no extras.

The Verdict

I've seen far too many other martial arts movies that are simply better than Empire of Assassins to recommend it. The total lack of extras on the DVD is just one more reason to skip it.

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