The 1991 Hong Kong actioner Swordsman II—or The Legend Of The Swordsman, as this DVD edition would have it—continues the curious HK cinema tradition of sequels that are superior to the original. (See also: Drunken Master II, the third and fourth Police Story movies, and a slew of others.) The follow-up to director Ching Sui Tong's 1990 epic Swordsman picks up the complicated plot threads and iconic characters of its predecessor, but upgrades the cast. Handsome, graceful Jet Li stars as a happy-go-lucky blademaster who, while leading his clan into seclusion, gets entangled in a dispute between his kidnapped master and his master's transsexual rival (Brigitte Lin). Swordsman II features snake-charmers, kung-fu moves that absorb men's "essences," deadly needle-and-thread manipulations, spinning blades that fly through the air with henchmen riding them, and secret scrolls that hold the key to world domination, all presented at maximum velocity by a filmmaking team headed by Ching and producer/writer Tsui Hark. Many consider Swordsman II to be among the finest Asian action films, and it's been called the best sword-and-sorcery movie ever made. Given those highly supportable superlatives, it's disappointing that Dimension (the B-movie-focused division of Miramax which bought the rights to a pile of Jet Li films a few years back) has given the DVD the same bare-bones, dubbed-into-English-only treatment applied to the other installments of its "Jet Li Collection." Only the title change hints at an effort to introduce a classic to an American audience. But because the dub isn't too clunky, and the smoke-and-shadow style looks fantastic on disc, the film's richness survives the domestic mishandling. Not many movies from any branch of world cinema have Swordsman II's precise mix of intricate mythology and hyperbolic fight scenes, which is only deepened by the pervasive undercurrent of tragedy connecting the ebullient martial arts. The corrupting influence of power is such an integral theme that Swordsman II actually ends just when the situation is at its most desperate, if not hopeless. The filmmakers thereby dance over graves, making wild entertainment out of their lack of faith in humanity's ability to rule with justice and wisdom.