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Judge Archer ("Jian Shi Liu Bai Yuan")

Canadian Premiere
  • China
  • 2012
  • 95 mins
  • DCP
  • Mandarin
  • English (subtitles)

« Xu est l’une des plus talentueuses révélations venues de Chine ces dernières années » – Gregory Coutaut, FILMES DE CULTE

“Xu gives an intangible cultural heritage a new life that it deserves, in cinema” - Liao Fangzhou, GLOBAL TIMES

Ravaged by guilt, shame and anger after he was unable to prevent his sister’s rape, a young man is brought to a monastery and instructed to renew himself, beginning with the taking of a new name — the first words he hears outside the holy walls. Those words are “Judge Archer”, and they will bring him anything but the peace he needs. The martial arts academies of early 20th-century China, tangled up as they are with various rival warlords, are in constant conflict, and the arbitrator, revered and despised in equal measure, is the enigmatic Judge Archer. Superior fighting skill is often enough to settle ordinary disputes, but it won’t help this Judge much when not one but two very beautiful, very crafty women start complicating his presumably pure and purposeful existence…

With his 2011 debut feature THE SWORD IDENTITY, Chinese filmmaker and scholar of traditional martial arts Xu Hoafeng upended every convention of kung fu cinema. Dispensing with the impossible stunts and overcooked theatrics, Xu’s approach was rigorously realistic and profoundly philosophical. It was also loaded with sly wit and irony, the comedy as understated yet effective as the hand-to-hand combat. After too long a wait (during which Xu scripted Wong Kar-Wai’s THE GRANDMASTER), the follow-up finally sees the light of day, again showcasing the director’s unique perspectives, historical insights, and deadpan hilarity. Back as well is Xu’s muse of sorts, leading man Song Yang, ever precise and decisive whether his character is fighting man-to-man or desperately dodging the dangers of boy-meets-girl. A resounding, confounding kung fu delight, JUDGE ARCHER breaks and remakes the very laws of martial arts cinema!

— Rupert Bottenberg