Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain

Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain

It's probably not a good idea to point to this 1983 film as the one that ushered in the era of Hong Kong cinema as we know it. It did, however, clearly raise the stakes for the Hong Kong film industry: The filmmakers consulted with American special-effects experts, incorporating their knowledge into an epic-in-scope, if almost entirely incomprehensible, fantasy film. Tsui Hark (Peking Opera Blues, Double Team) directs an all-star cast (Sammo Hung, Brigitte Lin) in the story of two warriors who must search for two magic swords in order to defeat an evil demon being kept in check by an aged sage's magic eyebrows. Or something. It's never exactly clear what's going on at any given moment. That's a common feature of Hong Kong films as well: not so much the incomprehensibility, but the free-wheeling incorporation of many different sorts of films. Zu, like many movies that would follow it, veers wildly from slapstick, to action, to effects-driven fantasy, to other sources of inspiration from both East and West. Though not exactly a good movie, Zu's dizzying qualities eventually overtake traditional standards of judgment, and its sheer spectacle and historical importance make it worth a look.

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