It is great to see a new Tsui Hark film at the cinema. Seven Swords is nowhere near Hark at his best, but since I have only ever seen him on a TV, I relished seeing this in a cinema. Bigger budgets, digital effects and relentless editing though removes much of his trademark action directing to a muddle in places – with only one stand-out fight being worth the admission fee. What surprised me though was how much I engaged with the on-paper, really simple subplot dynamics of the piece.

Seven heroes would be too many to invest with anything more than cursory personalities, and this film also has a few sundry villagers plus the bad guys. But on subplot watch (main plot of good guys vs bad guys nary gets a look-in)
1-Timid pacifist girl learns to fight
2-Feisty fighty girl learns to be a hero – and master the most complex of the seven swords
3-Fighty boy learns that fighting isn’t all that great
4-Kids learn ropes can be swords too (not very good plot this)
5-Grumpy uber-fighter reveals his slave past in trying to help a free slave (trying to help via being grumpy revealed to be worst trying to help ploy ever)
6-Ban on fighting discovered to be a bad thing for the fighting community
7-Whiny, wheedly moaning character turns out to be a traitor

Okay, most of the subplots are tosh, but the first two are actually played with perfection, especially the “come a hero” plot 2 which redeems much of the rest of the film. Not one of Hark’s best, but it looks great and is still a mess of fun when it gets going. Seven is about four too many swords though…