"Xu Haofeng's debut feature is a mysterious wuxia film that is both an homage to and an elegant, comic deconstruction of the classic Chinese and Japanese martial arts cinema traditions," writes Shelly Kraicer in Cinema Scope. "The final master vs swordsman showdown is refined to a pure philosophy of swordplay, where age faces youth and non-action vies with action. Paying tribute to King Hu's aesthetic of ultra-fast, barely glimpsed action, Xu succeeds in injecting a fresh combination of both idealism and realism into the classic wuxia visual language. With brilliant sound design and strong inventive cinematography, this is an utterly up-to-date classic, a comic-epic swordplay film for a postmodern age."
"Written and directed by the screenwriter for Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmasters — Xu also handles fight choreography here — The Sword Identity announces the arrival of a significant and unique new talent," finds Twitch's Todd Brown. "Xu presents a fascinating fusion of influences with a film that owes as much to the classical styled Japanese chanbara films of the 70s and the austerity of the vintage American western — right down to the strategically placed screeching eagles scattered throughout the sound design, though they're never seen on screen… A philosophical and highly meditative approach to the genre punctuated by impressively realistic forays into on screen action and sharp bursts of humor, The Sword Identity is completely unlike any martial arts picture of the past twenty years."
The Boston Globe's Ty Burr has found "it comes with a plot so byzantine I gave up taking notes 20 minutes in; suffice it to say that a lone warrior (Song Yang) holds off a town ruled by four fighting masters and their minions with the help of some dancing girls and an illegal Japanese longsword. I think Howard Hawks would have appreciated the dry sense of humor on display, but even he might have had to hit the Robitussin."
The Sword Identity screened in the Orizzonti section in Venice and in Toronto's Discovery program. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.