Friday, May 13, 2011


True Legend (苏乞儿)

True Legend Chinese martial arts enthusiasts never get bored watching a fierce fight on the big screen, and kung fu genre almost never runs out of material to satisfy that group of audience, because revenge seems a motivation that forever inspires those glory fights. What might be new is the deployment of the computer technology that creates visual images that human being cannot possibly achieve no matter how long and hard one practices martial arts.

That is basically what renowned martial arts director Yuen Woo-ping (袁和平) offers in his latest film "True Legend" (苏乞儿 | China 2010 | in Chinese | 116 min.). It contains plenty terrifically choreographed martial arts sequences and feather-weight kung fu masters flying on tree tops, but everything else falls flat.

Set in Qing Dynasty, after a bloody battle, General Su Qi-er (Vincent Zhao) leaves his post and departs his adopted brother Yuan Lie (Andy On) to go home. He wants to live a peaceful life with his wife Yaun Ying (Shu Qi), Yuan Lie's sister.

However, Yuan Lie has been seeking opportunity to revenge over the killing of his father, years ago by Su Qi-er's father. After Yuan Lie masters the poisonous martial arts form "Five Venom Fists" (五毒拳), he delivers his vengeance to Su's family. It is not pretty and Su Qi-er barely survives. During his recovery, Su Qi-er builds up a habit of non-stop drinking and talking to an illusional martial arts god (Jay Chou). Then, he takes revenge to Yuan Lie. What else?

When the ordeal is abruptly over, the film does not feel like to end. It jumps to an epilogue when Su becomes a drunken beggar and ends up in an pro wrestling style battle with the Russians. You all can guess how it ends.

Vincent Zhao in TRUE LEGEND

In this film, director Yuen Woo-ping does not disappoint the viewers for what he does the best—composing the most exhilarating fighting scenes.

However, he does not seem care anything else in the film. Besides the exceptionally formulaic and overly dramatic plot, the acting is uniformly dull and dry, often over the top, even with an ensemble of good actors. Everything seems to serve one purpose only: to create a platform for carrying out his carefully designed martial arts sequences.

After all, the true legend is not Su Qi-er, but vengeance—a forever living human instinct that inspires more and more mindless fights in martial arts genre. Without it, how can these films ever get made?

"True Legend," a Indomina Releasing release, opens on Friday, May 13, 2011 at Bay Area theaters.

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