17 August 2019 | joelnova93
A Work of Passion
The premise is simple, but I'll admit you'll have to get through a few odd curveballs the writers threw in just to get the story moving along in an interesting way. A plot summary made me assume that a 20 year-old Ti Lung, playing Brother Siang, was not going to play an invincible hero again, and I was a bit off-put when he quickly dispatched the first group of baddies skillfully with his sword.
But then it all made sense when David Chiang's Lo Yi shows up. Not only is his character incredibly strong, but this actor is always so impressive. At first he appears a bit too scrawny, but the more you watch, the more charisma and gravity he adds to the film. And this gravity is played off even better when Piau Piau, Siang's fiancee, takes a liking to Lo Yi.
All the characters are strongly written, and a theme for their development seems to be one about pride, and how strongly they are all willing to protect it. The world and lore seems quite alive too: The bad guys are really notorious, and the good guys are really heroic. We follow Lo Yi for most of the film, making us feel like we are stepping into a bigger world than we first thought, and the story plays out similarly for a Lo Yi, a man with a simple goal; a place to sleep and a job to feed himself and his rather magnificent horse. The characters are definitely living in a immersive world. I myself don't want to be there as it is brutal, but I feel like the world is alive and I'm glad I get to watch it all.
The sounds are great, with recurring musical themes and some of my favorite Shaw Bros. stock sounds, which I also recall from another David Chiang film "The Heroic Ones".
The action in this film is intense, with some of the directing feeling experimental; usually a big focus on fast acrobatics offset by some isolated slow motion scenes as well. Director Chang Cheh seemed unbound for this film, and I have truly never felt more emotional tension in any other Shaw Bros. film so far due to the precise level of emphasis and grandeur displayed in his directing.
HAVE SWORD WILL TRAVEL is worth the watch, and overall a beautiful character driven story.