In search of her master’s brother, a skilled lady boxer (Angela Mao) comes to town only to discover that he has gone missing. Initiating a search that brings her into conflict with a poisoned swordsman, a fighter who seems to be following her, and the group responsible for her master’s disappearance, she takes on all comers in her quest for the truth.
Shot on a, very noticeably, low budget, Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion is a generally lackluster swordplay film that is unable to utilize it’s talented fighters and instead turns in a perfect example of the type of martial arts film that critics of the genre love to generalize. It’s poorly acted and has a less than compelling storyline that loops and offers little in terms of surprises. Generally a martial arts film with an uninteresting story can be forgiven if the action is good, but unfortunately the action here is more average than I’d like.
Mostly weapon-based, Mao uses a short staff/spear and deals with some pretty unique weaponry and tactics. An ambush with lotus styled maces with hidden tricks is pretty unique, but the action just isn’t great. It’s generic and though competently performed, is immensely forgettable. A house of traps offers ample opportunity to be fun but instead bores with the seemingly endless parade of booby traps that aren’t threatening and come off as ridiculous. What a waste of Mao who has turned in any number of great performances but is squandered her in ‘detective’ scenes that go nowhere and for too long. It’s a terrible case of not utilizing your strengths.
In the end, Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion is a below average swordplay film that probably won’t offer much to genre veterans. I’d say Angela Mao completionists may find something to enjoy but more discerning fans may do well to steer clear.