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Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Eye for an Eye

China 2023

Wuxia, Action

Yang Bingjia

Xie Miao
Gao Weiman
Hao Xiang
Zhang Di
Liu Ben
Zhang Haosen
Kang Xuan

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Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman

Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Cheng Yi (Xie Miao) is a blind bounty hunter who is about to turn in a wanted man when the smell of good wine in a village stops him from doing so. Nie Yan (Gao Weiman) has served up her best homemade wine for her wedding day, and she invites Cheng Yi to drink a few cups at the celebration as well. Cheng Yi doesn't need to be told twice, and soon he falls asleep in the shed too. When he wakes up, Nie Yan's husband and her brother are dead, and the bride has only survived by pure chance. Those responsible are part of the powerful Yuwen family. That's why none of the officials want to take care of the matter, and when Nie Yan does not give up, they decide to blame everything on her. Cheng Yi, on the other hand, does not allow this to happen and takes the woman to Luoyang, where she wants to demand justice again. In the meantime, the blind swordsman meets with Qin Niang (Zhang Di), who provides him with assignments that will earn him enough money so that he could one day afford a cure for his blindness. But when he then finds out from someone that Nie Yan has turned up at the home of the Yuwen family and is now being held captive by them, Cheng Yi decides to help her one last time. However, he does not seem to know what kind of powerful enemy he's up against...

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Review: Chinese streaming movies can either be found in the science fiction genre with bad CGI, or they are monster flicks with even worse special effects. Another popular genre is wuxia, and especially here there are a few positive surprises, which "The Hidden Fox" indubitably proves. "Eye for an Eye", on the other hand, has not only attracted the attention of Well Go USA, so that the flick can also be seen outside of Hi-Yah! or similar platforms. Even the first images show that the director has set high standards for himself, and the production looks expensive all the way through. A well-known story has been approached with great attention to detail here, and that may win over quite a lot of people. The big weakness, though, is the plot, which we've already seen a thousand times in this shape and form.

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The elephant in the room is, of course, that this is sort of an adoption of "Zatoichi". Even Korea had a try at the story with Hwang Jung-min in "Blades of Blood" years ago, but "Eye for an Eye" really breaks down the plot to its bare minimum. At the very least, you expect to learn a little more about the hero's background when there is a small cut into his past on the battlefield, but that's not the case. The damsel in distress doesn't really offer enough for us to warm up to the plot either. In fact, it is inexplicable why Cheng Yi is so emotionally involved in the first place. He will certainly have experienced similar situations at his job before. So, what makes Nie Yan so special? At least, the movie (fortunately) refrains from turning things into a love story.

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Cheng Yi's partnership/friendship with Qin Niang remains just as superficial for some reason, although it is supposed to touch us later on. So, even though the beginning may manage to grab us right away, all these factors quickly add up to "Eye for an Eye" seeming more lifeless than you might have expected at first. Here, the visuals were clearly more important than substance. Sadly, this also shows in the fight sequences. They have potential, but they are kept very short, as Cheng Yi fights very effectively. To make everything look a little more stylish, though, there are a few moments of slow-motion. They are by no means tacky, instead, their focus on aesthetics is a little reminiscent of Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grandmaster", which is something praiseworthy; but at the same time, it takes the speed out of the action. A few scenes, for example when Cheng Yi's blade catches fire, are undoubtedly enjoyable because of their beautiful visuals, but the fact remains that as an action fan you are always left wanting more.

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It's surprising how few fight scenes there are in "Eye for an Eye". On the other hand, director Yang Bingjia scores points with his outstanding cinematography. He skillfully works with both lighting and sets, so that the scene in the snow during the finale almost looks like a theater stage. The artistic aspiration sometimes reminded me of "The Sword Identity", only that director Yang clearly puts more emphasis on coolness than on depth. Visually, the movie is clearly a success. But the flick is also in dire need of this because the story doesn't even provide enough material for the short 77 minutes of running time. Since we have a revenge story at its core, Yang should at least have picked us up on that level, but as mentioned before, the fate of the individual characters leave us rather cold.

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However, it is admirable that all those involved in the movie compete far above their weight class, and mostly successfully. But Yang should have just made sure to include at least a few deviations from the classic story, and he should have made his characters more three-dimensional. In the end, his movie lacks more and more soul with each passing minute because everything progresses according to a predictable pattern. In addition, it is frustrating that the fights didn't get more room, as there is some untapped potential here as well. Visually, "Eye for an Eye" is a nice adaptation of the well-known "Zatoichi" story, but Yang's flick doesn't really offer anything new. But this also means that you can be cautiously optimistic about the future of the director, as long as he steps it up a notch in terms of writing and brings a little more substance to his action.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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