The Assassin is a 1967 martial arts epic from Shaw Brothers, starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Lisa Chiao, Tien Feng and directed by Chang Cheh, who in the very same year collaborated with Wang Yu and Lisa Chiao in One-Armed Swordsman.
A historical epic set in the twilight of the Ming Dynasty, Wang-yu plays Nie-zheng, a rebel leader and former warrior betrayed by a rival, where he ends up renouncing his past as a killer to live the rest of his life with his lover, Xia-ying. But when the past catches up with him, Nie-zheng - despite Xia-ying's pleas - decides to rejoin his former rebel legion to assassinate the Han Emperor and put an end to an age of tyranny, despite knowing he very well wouldn't live to see the aftermath of his success.
If One-Armed Swordsman is the film that establish Jimmy as a megastar, then The Assassin would be the film that typecasts Jimmy as a nigh-invincible, indestructible killing machine of martial arts cinema. This movie, and Golden Swallow, are the first two (of maybe a dozen) movies where Jimmy clearly kills more than a hundred people onscreen, making him the indisputable badass of 70s wuxia cinema.
The Assassin contains examples of:
- Actor Allusion: Jimmy Wang-yu and Lisa Chiao plays lovers once again, after their previous film One-Armed Swordsman.
- Blood Is the New Black: Nie-zheng, in the end of the final battle, with his white clothing splattered with plenty of red after sustaining inumerable injuries.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: After killing the Emperor and finding himself surrounded by scores and scores of Imperial guards, intending to capture him alive and interrogate him to uncover the La Résistance leaders' hideout, Nie-zheng instead opts to commit Seppuku. He managed to kill a dozen more guards before he finally expires to his own self-inflicted injury.
- Driven to Suicide: Xia-ying at the end of the film, after uncovering the white cloth covered over the dead assassin, and finding out that is none other than Nie-zheng. At which point she offs herself with a dagger through her midsection so they can be Together in Death.
- Human Pincushion: Official Yen Chung Tzu dies in this fashion, being executed by having multiple arrows shot into his body. Nie-zheng discovers him in this state when looking for him, and is absolutely shocked at what he saw.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Han Emperor, courtesy of Nie-zheng.
- In a Single Bound: This is how Nie-zheng kills the Emperor at the end of the movie, revealing his disguise and somehow leaping twenty feet horizontally through the air before impaling his target through the midsection.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: During a romantic scene between Nie-zheng and Xia-ying near a waterfall, a few notes from John Barry's You Only Live Twice score can be heard in the background.
- La Résistance: The local rebellion that opposes the Han Emperor, which Nie-zheng is a supporter and it's most skilled warrior.
- Made of Iron: Nie-zheng in the finale; after killing a hundred Imperial soldiers, sustaining multiple injuries in the process (see the above screenshot) and skewered by several arrows while attempting to escape, he still continually battles for several minutes, killing as many as he can. He finally dies, through a self-inflicted injury, and what a Dying Moment of Awesome that is...
- One-Man Army: Nie-zheng in the assassination scene. His first kill is the Han Emperor, and after that around a hundred soldiers that tries to arrest him. While he eventually dies, he took most of the Imperial army with him to the death.
- Suicide Mission: Nie-zheng is well aware that the mission to assassinate the Han Emperor is a one-way trip, considering even if he managed to kill his target, he'll be swarmed by hundreds and hundreds of guards in the palace. Nevertheless he chose this mission for the better good, and ends up dying valiantly by the end of the day.
- White Shirt of Death: Nie-zheng in the final scene, shedding his red robes while disguised as an Imperial officer, before revealing his all-white clothing underneath, where he then proceeds to go on a killing spree before dying in his red-splattered white outfit.