NOTE: Please be aware that this DVD is a British import and although it is Region 0 and therefore free from region coding, it is in PAL format and in order to view this DVD, you'll have to have either a PAL compatible or Region Free DVD player. [Recommended Region Free Players] It will not play in standard Region 1 North American DVD players.
Rocky (Meng Fei) and Cherry were lovers when they were younger but as time went on he decided to leave their home town and go make his mark on the world. Years later, Rocky returns to hopefully rekindle what he and Cherry once had, but upon his arrival he finds out that she's off and married a swordsman named Willow! Why did she doe this? Because while Rocky was off doing his own thing, a dastardly man named Iron Head showed up in town and tried to make it with Cherry. She'd have none of his monkey business but Iron Head doesn't take no for an answer. Good thing Willow showed up to save the day and win her heat but putting Iron Head six feet under.
Unfortunately for Willow, Iron Head had a brother and when this brother learns about Iron Head's death, he decides to gather up some buddies and put into motion a plan that will knock all the credibility out of Willow's sails and make him look like a jerk in front of everyone. How is he going to do this? He's going to kill off one or two of Willow's buddies and make it look like Rocky was the man who really killed Iron Head. This will steal Willow's thunder and to add insult to injury, Iron Head's brother figures he can make it look like Rocky and Cherry were having an affair while she was married to Willow! Shock!
When Willow thinks that Rocky was banging his beloved he decides to go teach him a lesson he won't soon forget. While he's out trying to fight Rocky, Iron Head's bother and his pals show up at his place to start trouble. The find Cherry there and she's raped. Rocky and Willow soon clue in to what's going on and they rush back to save her but it's too late, she's killed herself, unable to live with the shame and the tension in her life. Rocky and Willow, two unlikely allies, must now work together however reluctantly to avenge Cherry's death. Will they be able to put their differences aside and use their common love for the dead lady to overcome the bad guys and their deadly martial arts skills or is it already too late to save the day?
Known under a multitude of titles - Shaolin Hero (the title that Tai Seng released it under in North America), Faster Blade, Poisonous Darts (the title that is used on this DVD), Avenging Eagle, and The Great Massacre - this Korean/Taiwanese co-production contains some fun scenes of swordplay and martial arts combat but turns out to be a pretty predictable tale of morality, sacrifice, romance and deception. It's an entertaining enough movie but there's little in here that differentiates it, at least story wise, some dozens of other revenge themed martial arts films. The real reason to watch this one is the action, and on that level it isn't a bad effort at all.
Meng Fei brings some unintentional humor to the film thanks to the horrible wig that the producers have seen fit to grace him with in the film, and the equally horrible English dubbing doesn't do the movie any favors but in terms of fight choreography and swordplay there are a few fun and marginally impressive sequences in the movie to watch out for. The movie starts off with a bang and is paced well, and the final showdown is a pretty solid bout which delivers some genuinely exciting fighting moves. When it's all said and done this is an entertaining martial arts film with a few cool scenes and some entertainingly garish costumes, but not one that will likely ever be remembered as a classic.
This transfer is a mess. The opening scene is fullframe, cropped from its original widescreen aspect ratio to fill the screen. When the opening credits hit (you'll know when they do because of the video generated title screen that hits like a freeze frame) the image is stretched from widescreen to fullscreen so that everyone is tall and very thin. This completely ruins the picture. It does go back to the standard 4x3 cropped image once the credits finish, but the fact remains that the compositions in this film are severely compromised and there are moments where characters are talking or doing something important and they're not even visible on the screen. The picture quality is pretty atrocious as well, the image is washed out, the colors bleed, and the whole thing is riddled with print damage, dirt, and debris. This is a rare film so it's likely that there was nothing else to work with but that doesn't change the fact that the picture quality on this release blows.
The dubbed English language audio track is full of hiss and scratches from start to finish. The levels are through the roof for the sound effects and the dialogue has a tendency to be buried in spots. You can follow the film if you're willing to adjust the volume a few times but this is not what anyone in their right mind would call good in terms of the audio quality on this disc.
The one and only menu screen on this release allows you to play the film or choose one of it's six chapters. The only supplement on this release is actually a fairly interesting one and it's the alternate ending of the film that, according to the menu screen, was used in the Korean market. The quality leaves something to be desired but it is neat to see it included here. Unfortunately, it's presented in Korean only without any English subtitles.
This one could have been a fun martial arts movie but with so much of the picture flat out missing and the image and sound quality on this disc proving to be so poor, it's really hard to get into the movie. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.