The Deadly Breaking Sword (1979)

Reviewed by humanlantern
May 13, 2014


Ti Lung • Alexander Fu Sheng • Shih Szu • Ku Feng • Lily Li • Chan Shen • Michael Chan Wai-Man • Kara Hui
Sun Chung
Tong Gai • Wong Pau-Gei
Version reviewed was in widescreen format. Mandarin language with English subtitles.
Purchase & Info
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Tuan Changqing (aka The Deadly Breaking Sword, played by Ti Lung) and Xiao Dao (aka The Little Dagger, played by Alexander Fu Sheng) team up to uncover the truth about a local doctor, who is accused by the town’s newest brothel resident of betraying her brother.
thoughts on the movie

Overall, I enjoy this movie enough to have watched it multiple times over the last year. Although, I must admit that neither the story nor the fighting are all that outstanding here. Most of the fights don’t last very long, and some leave you wondering why they’re even in the movie. Furthermore, even though the story plays out with a sense of intrigue, it turns out to be pretty simplistic. Having said that, there are some great performances.

Ti Lung plays a martial arts expert whose modus operandi is to challenge people to a fight and then show up with a coffin ready for the challenger’s inevitable demise. His finishing move consists of lodging his sword into the bones of his opponent and then breaking off a piece of that sword as a souvenir (thus the film’s title). As far as gimmicks go, I think that’s pretty dang cool. Alexander Fu Sheng plays a gambler, turned unlikely hero, named Xiao Dao. Fu Sheng exhibits a bit more range, as his character is both confident and naïve at times. He also provides some comic relief. Fu Sheng’s character’s fighting styles are more varied. His main weapon is a dagger, but he also matches his opponents’ styles in some scenes, like when he fights monkey style vs. monkey style. Lung’s fights are serious and are those of a badass who knows he’s a badass, while Fu Sheng’s are those of a badass who’s having fun in every scene.

was it funny?
There are some light moments in the film, courtesy of Alexander Fu Sheng. Most of the comedic parts were tame, with limited bits of slapstick humor.
How was the Action?

Most scenes involve at least Lung and his sword or Fu Sheng and his dagger, but there is a decent selection of other weapons used by the villains. There are even glimpses of hand-to-hand fighting. The action is not the most imaginative, and almost all the fight scenes are quite brief. However, the fights are well-edited and full of energy, especially those involving Fu Sheng. The variety of sets in which the action takes place definitely enhance those scenes; this is not a movie featuring a bunch of fights in open fields. One example is a fight that takes place in a gambling house, where the furniture is put to good use. The fight scenes in the brothel are also fun, as the action spills from room to room. I was surprised and delighted by the more gruesome touches, like when a jailer has his ear lopped off.

Standout performance(s)

Both Ti Lung and Fu Sheng are superb in this movie. They make an excellent team and are fun to watch. I give the edge to Fu Sheng’s performance however. Granted, his character gives him more to work with, but he really brings it to life and is a bright spot in the film.

Watch or Pass
6 Reasons Why You Should WATCH or PASS On This Movie
1. PASS if you want a movie with epic kung fu battles
2. WATCH if you like main characters with interesting gimmicks (i.e. bringing a coffin to a duel for their soon-to-be-dead opponent and breaking off their sword in their bones)
3. WATCH if you enjoy strongly acted characters with great chemistry
4. PASS if you want a plot that pays off
5. WATCH/PASS if you love/hate the comedic touches Fu Sheng brings to his fighting/character
6. WATCH if you love Shaw Brothers films and all the sets/costumes/production values that entails

An enjoyable film with fantastic performances that might not quite satisfy the most hardcore kung fu fan.

STORY – 3/5
ACTING – 4/5
SETS – 5/5