A tagline from IVL/Celestial Pictures triumphantly states that the entire Shaw's script-writing section created the screenplay. Read: hastily patched together from scraps. Jason Pai Piao plays villain swordsman Qin Wu Xin, whose desire for respect drives him to obtain by any means the best swords in the land. To acquire the famous Cold Eagle Sword, he is determined to eradicate a mysterious sword maker (Ku Feng) and his youthful son Yan Bei (Derek Yee). As their connections to the deadly martial arts school, the Black Magic Clan, unfold, Qin Wu Xin and Yan Bei must prepare for the final duel that decides who will become the Supreme Swordsman. Boiled down, it sounds pretty good.
Onscreen, the story suffers from a serious mood disorder. The first hour follows the harmful consequences of a decently-developed Jianghu anti-hero’s quest for power. The remaining forty minutes suddenly, inexplicably shift focus onto the wacky, supernatural hero transformation of Yan Bei. His comedic training sequence, complete with three semi-holy fools, comical underworld characters, and an immature message about confidence, may alienate those who favor darker stories that explore moral corruption. Conversely, fans of fun fantasy wuxiapian like Holy Flame of the Martial World may not be interested in the moral downfall of Qin Wu Xin. Although the two disparate tales finally unite, this mood split irreparably damages Supreme Swordsman. The clumsiness is only exacerbated by a criminally cheap production. Formulaic, repetitive photography does nothing to hide flimsy, sparsely decorated sets and recycled costumes. Like crime, half a budget just doesn’t pay.
The paucity of resources is, however, almost overcome by a charismatic cast. Dynamic martial actor Jason Pai Piao and fresh-faced Derek Yee contrast well as stormy villain and glowing hero. A mature Ku Feng and the ever-royal Wong Yung (as swordsman Xuan Yuan) nicely compliment the more tightly wound energy of Pai and Yee. Bounteous Margaret Lee Din Long appears as Yan Bei’s girlfriend, and Yuen Wah’s supporting role as Qin Wu Xin’s long-suffering servant Wu Ya is a nice treat. Despite the disjointed story, these actors heroically continue to dish up Shaw-style drama.