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A stoic Shu Qi stalks her prey in the trailer for Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin

The A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky took note of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s wuxia tale of acrobatic swordplay, calling The Assassin the most beautiful film at Cannes. Now there’s a trailer out, and the visuals are certainly worthy of praise, even if the story is somewhat familiar: An infiltrator at risk of being uncovered, love triangles, treacherous palace intrigue, and the contrasts between empowered martial combatants and the repressive formality of the royal court are all calling cards of the wuxia genre.

As the tight-lipped assassin sent to kill a man to whom she was once betrothed, star Shu Qi displays a hardened exterior that cannot mask a deep melancholy. Her quiet toughness carries a hint of the nameless gunfighters who roam the landscapes of Eastwood Westerns. Will she succeed in her mission? Will she strike down Lord Tian, or will she be destroyed herself? The trailer doesn’t give away any clues, but things tend to go poorly for the heroes and heroines of wuxia dramas.


The Assassin doesn’t have a stateside release date as of yet, but Well Go USA secured rights for U.S. distribution before the film opened at Cannes in May. So it could be available either in theaters or VOD later this year.

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