This is an uneven but entertaining wuxia pian film from the great director Chu Yuan ("Killer Clans," "The Magic Blade"). The title refers to the film's villain, a legendary and seemingly super-powered bandit/rapist who can swoop through the air and slay an entire group of swordsmen in less time than it takes to recount this movie's incredibly twisty plot. The so-called "Bat Without Wings," whose face is covered in makeup that would make Gene Simmons envious, was supposedly slain five years ago, but now a new killer has suddenly appeared claiming to be the infamous "Bat" himself.
A benevolent swordsman (played by Derek Yee Tung-sing) teams up with the father and the fiancé of a woman who was abducted and brutally slain by the "Bat" (Ku Feng). Together they track down the mysterious killer, but, as in most films of this type, they soon discover that things are far from how they initially appeared.
The movie has elements of melodrama, comedy, action, horror, mystery, and just about anything else you can think of. In fact, the movie's biggest problem is that there's so much plot to wade through and so many characters to keep track of (it seems like a new character is introduced almost every five minutes) that it's difficult to get emotionally involved in the proceedings because the players are mostly rendered in shorthand and come across as mere puppets to the convoluted plot mechanics. Yee is earnest in the lead, but there's not much substance to his character beyond his good will and his expert sword-fighting skills.
For those familiar with Chu Yuan's movies, there's little here storywise that feels particularly fresh or original, save for the outlandish title character and some gruesome horror elements (a headless woman),but the film moves at a fairly quick pace and there are some decent action sequences. As usual, Chu's direction is stylish and makes fine use of the colorful studio sets. Some story elements are a bit cheesy and suggest that this movie is not to be taken as seriously as some of Chu's more dramatically compelling ventures.
Acclaimed director Chu Yuan was credited for bringing mystery thriller ingredients into his atmospheric martial arts epics, and this is one of the most impressive examples. The title refers to the feared nickname of a notorious rapist-murderer who swoops down to destroy one swordsman's fiancé and frame another. Or does he? The two tragic men team with a beautiful swordswoman to find the truth.
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