A poor farmer who loves a woman he is forbidden to associate with becomes a hardened mercenary, and is hired by a local warlord as a professional assassin. Years later, he runs into his old love and begins to question his violent past. Assassin should be considered another lightweight entry into the dark themed HK swordplay/action genre, like The Blade, Ashes of Time, and the excellent Burning Paradise. The film has a great premise- A country bumpkin and flower lover, Tong Po, falls in love with a girl (Rosamund Kwan) he is not allowed to marry. They try to run away together, but they are captured and he is thrown into a jail where his eyes are sewn shut. Next, his eyes are opened to find himself and some fellow prisoners in a gladiatorial ring where they must kill each other in order to survive, the last man standing gets to live and be trained as an executioner for a power corrupted eunuch. Tong Po wins of course, becomes an adept killing machine, is renamed Tong Chop, and given an apprentice who both idolizes and wants to replace him. During one nighttime raid, Tong sees Rosamund and his past starts creeping back on him, so he leaves the killing business and hides out with her in her village where she has remarried and has a son. But, his old life as a prominent killer is not easily left behind, and both his protégé and the powerful eunuch are out for his blood, leading to the bloody conclusion
It has a great story, pretty good cinematography, and the gore one comes to expect (the eunuch likes to tear his victims in two, and of course the swordplay involves many geysers of blood), but it suffers from poor production values and lack of a charismatic lead. The film has serious `fright wig' syndrome, with some laughable costumes and really bad, uneven, frizzy wigs on Tong Chop and his protégé. With a more substantial budget, design, and casting of a better lead this could have been a great film. It could definitely benefit from being remade.
The Assassin (1993) is one of the few Hong Kong movies to earn a category III rating just for it's shear brutality. Usually a CAT. III is awarded for excessive sex, nudity or violence but this one was earned for it's bloody carnage. Rosamund Kwan co-stars as the former love of Fengyi Zhang. Kwan and Zheng are two lovers who's love for each other is forbidden. When Zheng refuses to acknowledge this, he's imprisoned and brutally punished. While in prison, he becomes an assassin for an evil eunuch. Upon his release, he tutors an up and coming assassin (Max Mok). while under his wing, Mok slowly turns into something that Zheng could never be.
Highly recommended for H.K. Cinema fans. Be warned because this film is violent!!