Deadful Melody

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Ni Kuang is a legend in the wuxia genre. He has written countless screenplays and novels in the genre, so it’s no wonder that Johnny Lee and Man Choi Lee’s screenplay for Deadful Melody (1994) caries a certain pedigree. If a film is either written by or based on a novel by Ni Kuang then it promises to be good coherent fun even if it isn’t a masterpiece. It’s just that so many wuxia films actually don’t make a lot of narrative sense. So when a film in the genre does have a clear story arc it’s something that is instantly cherished amongst fans.

Director Ng Min Kan’s Deadful Melody is an impressive balancing act of high octane action and slapstick comedy. Carina Lau is particularly good in this respect in the role of Tan Yuehua. She imbues her spunky little badass character with some deeply rooted tenderness and vulnerability. Brigitte Lin is always spectacular to watch and really carries the second half of the film dramatically speaking. It’s the men in the cast who seem to thrive more in the vein of comedy than that of action and suspense. There are moments when goofball asides completely undermine to momentum of Deadful Melody though luckily they never truly derail the film.

Deadful Melody is a really solid example of your standard wuxia film in the nineties. I enjoyed it even after Jeffrey Lau’s The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993) had sort of ruined this era of the genre for me. This gets a strong recommendation for those inclined towards wuxia and other martial arts related genres.