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Review What Price Survival a.k.a. '94 du bi dao zhi qing (1994): Pretension in martial arts films is incredibly bad

genre: martial arts, wuxia




Marking this movie as a great martial arts flick is an insult to movie makers who do put effort in their work. Yes, the camera-work is excellent and yes there is a lot of swordplay, even very enjoyable but only for a short time. The martial arts/ swordplay looks good but it is average compared to other titles. The story seems interesting, but in fact you have to be drunk or high to understand the deeper meaning of it. 

(This by the way is not something that I say very easily. I always attempt to focus on the good elements even when the bad ones prevail. But if that is impossible to do so then the film simply is very bad. When I wrote this review a few years ago on IMDB someone addressed the drunk or high remark claiming I was from another planet and did not know what I was talking about. My reply to that was:


I have seen a lot of martial arts movies, since I was a small child and could not understand a word of Chinese. But even when I couldn't understand it I enjoyed the action. Chinese martial arts, Japanese Martial arts , Bruce Lee's Jeet Kun Do, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Yuen Baio, Tsui Hark (very creative and brilliant director and producer), Yuen Woo ping (director, choreographer), Ti Lung... I can go on and on... and all the modern HK stuff are a passion of mine. So with all respect (I am not from another planet) I know what I am talking about. I can name Duel to the death, Swordsman TrilogyIron Monkey as examples which have much better displays of swordplay and martial arts. I can dazzle you with other titles, but that would be a very long list. What price survival isn't one of them and will never be one of them. The actors who played in the movie are famous martial artists from the old days. They displayed much better skills in previous films than in this movie. 

Why do I need to mention this? Because it matters telling people that I have been a fan of the genre for a very long time and that by now I can tell if something is good or not. In another review I read that director Daniel Lee (Black Mask, Dragon Blade) was trying to be artistic. Never quite understood why some Chinese directors felt the need to do that. It's almost like they think a movie needs more than just fighting and combat. And of course any film should try to tell a story or provoke thoughts and emotions. However when by doing so the consequence is that it makes the action trivial then they simply missed the mark. Anyway, sorry for the detraction, back to the review.)

I know they tried to give the movie some drama to intensify the experience, but they fail completely. Pretension in films often is bad. Pretension in martial arts films is incredibly bad. Martial arts movies in my humble opinion should always be about the action and style. And What Price Survival doesn't deliver this. The acting is below average. It is obvious that the actors don't believe in their part and that this movie fails on so many levels that I have to advise against this movie. If you encounter this movie and feel tempted to buy it then don't. Please ignore it since it will be a waste of your money and your time. 


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