Oh man, I really loved this movie when I first saw this and thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment for this review copy of this awesome film!
So let's see what they have here in their promotional papers:
"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" relocate to ancient China in the dazzling martial-arts epic, Reign of Assassins" - The Hollywood Reporter
What the heck? That's not really accurate. You don't even know the guy can fight until...you know what, let's just jump into the review, yeah?
The story starts out as Drizzle, who is played by Kelly Lin in the beginning of the movie, is sent out by the Dark Stone gang to assassinate a prime minister and his son and retrieve the remains of a holy corpse that is said that possesses special powers. After she kills them, she meets a monk that asks her to change her ways. She wasn't listening so he lets her kill him; then she felt guilty and decided to change her ways after all. Drizzle goes to a famous surgeon and asks to have her face changed.
Fast forward to Drizzle, who is now played by Michelle Yeoh, starting a new life being a cloth merchant. The movie does this cute little turnaround where Drizzle meets Ah-Sheng, played by Jung Woo-Sung, and romance blooms between them. Often times, their interactions are innocent and light hearted, which is a clear difference in the previous life of Drizzle.
Soon enough, they get married and start their lives together but during one trip to the bank, robbers take over looking for the holy corpse. As they started killing the civilians inside the bank, Drizzle had no choice but to expose her martial prowess to her husband. After they got home, she was certain that he would leave her but he calms her down saying that she is his wife and it doesn't matter what happened in the past and he loves her.
Then of course, this holy corpse comes back to bite her in the butt and in typical Wuxia movies like this, her old gang Dark Stone refuses to let her live her new life, forces her to help them retrieve the holy corpse or they kill her husband, yadda yadda yadda, final battle with Drizzle and the master of the Dark Stone gang.
And of course, the plot twist; her husband was actually the son of the prime minister she assassinated in the beginning of the movie who also went to the same surgeon to change his face; and he's also a badass fighter too.
So yes, the story itself is pretty predictable but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of it all. Michelle Yeoh still has that onscreen presence both in action and the softer sides of the role. Jung Woo-Sung played the dichotomy of his character really well as he honestly felt endearing and loving to Yeoh's character. I also enjoyed the lighter parts of the movie, where cutesy romance came into play with a lot of the classical tropes came to play in an almost rom-com feeling.
That doesn't take away from the action set pieces though. It feels very kung fu-ish, that very specific look and feel for that action. The performance is superb from all of the cast and the fights are quite entertaining. Like I said, it's just smooth camera work that lets the performers show the choreography without having too much editing to kill the vibe. Even Kelly Lin had some decent fights in the beginning of the movie.
Overall, I think Reign Of Assassins is one of my favorite "kung fu" movies in the past 5 years. Granted that there have been great kung fu films in the past few years, none have really captured that Wuxia feel like this one. It really does have everything you'd expect from a fantasy film; sword fights, mystery, plot twists, even a heartfelt romantic story that lets you walk away from this film with a smile.