I am not sure if this live-action Chinese martial arts soap opera drama is awesome or just cracktastic, but I had a ridiculous amount of fun watching it. And so can you: it's available via Netflix.

The heroine is a lovely assassin/forced concubine who wears gorgeous flowing red clothes and a red beauty mark on her forehead. This distinguishes her from the rest of her all-female color-coded assassin squad, who all live in an underground palace which is dank and infested with scorpions, torture machines, and creepy skulking plotting men, but which the assassins find warm and cozy because they were all kidnapped as girls and raised there.

This all takes place in pre-Tang China, by the way. Well, sort of. The score is distinctly modern, featuring extremely long synthesizer solos that go "BWAAAAAANG!" at dramatic points, and also disco and C-pop. Plus really bad subtitles. Characters often say things like, "I knew he was the man when I first saw the shinny thing in his eyes," "How's crippled grandpa?" "There's a siskin behind the preying mantis," and "He's desperate to kill you alive!"

I have forgotten everyone's names, so I will call the heroine Red. Red is sad and stoic, unsurprisingly since her first love, a stone-faced dude with a bell on his pants that rings to show emotion, kidnapped her and made her into an assassin who can kill people in 49 different ways, including with a leaf and her hair, and turned her over to a gross evil councilor who pried apart her thighs and took her virginity. Stone-face, by the way, canonically never changes expression or ages, which explains a lot about the flashbacks where he looks exactly the same.

The councilor has an idiot son who's plotting to kill him. Yellow assassin has a crush on Idiot Son, which is odd since he has so far vomited on her, insulted her, torn up her painting, called her mom, and hurled a Persian cat at her. You see why I enjoyed this show so much.

A country bumpkin feng shui psychic detective scholar guy who has long intimate conversations with his horse comes to town. He charms Red, who as you have probably noticed, is surrounded by men who would have been rejected from match.com. Also, he tells her she'd make a great general, and furthermore, "I'll make you soup and protect you with my life." She spares his life when she was sent to bring back his head in a jar, and runs away with him.

Blue assassin and Stone-face pursue. Blue kills a horse with her sleeve, and without getting permission, hires drunken bandits in furry masks to kill Bumpkin's village. Stone-face slashes Blue's face, and she treasures the scar because she has a creepy hang-up about him. "You want to screw her face?!" someone asked. Oyce explained to me that it was actually "screw up."

It's revealed that the underground palace is actually the tomb of the empress whom Stone-face loved. He practices wu shu and hallucinates her before him. But no! It's Blue dressed as the empress! Stone-face sneaks up on Blue while she sleeps and rubs her hair over his face, pretending she's the empress. When he leaves, she smells her hair in ecstasy. A creepy healer dude heals her scar without asking, and she tries to scar her face again!

I was rooting for Bumpkin for a while, but then he displayed his... um... interesting battle strategy in what was possibly the best fight scene ever, for certain values of "best."



Horse-talker sends away Red and the remaining villagers, and, in by far the most emotional farewell, his horse-- without removing the saddle-- and prepares to face Stoneface alone. They meet in a field lit with candles and braziers. Suddenly Bumpkin vanishes. Then his face and hands appear, pressed up against a black spandex screen. We all thought it was the world's worst special effect and that the screen was a green screen that should have been digitally removed. But then Stoneface slashes the screen with his sword! That was Bumpkin's grand plan: he put up all these black spandex screens in a candle-lit field so he could hide behind them!

He runs in and out of the screens. Stoneface picks up a candle and sets them on fire. Bumpkin leaps into a tunnel he dug! Then he emerges with grass on his head and tries to hide. It is just like the camoflage in Gundam Wing when they try to hide forty-foot giant robots with three bushes and a flamingo. Then Bumpkin runs into a stable, where he has set up a giant falling spiky thing! This fails as miserably as all his other strategems. Then his horse returns to save him! Stoneface flips the horse (now a plastic toy) end over end over end. It dies. Red returns to save his undeserving hide...

To be continued!
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