Review: TRUE LEGEND 蘇乞兒 (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 24 May 2010

Review: TRUE LEGEND 蘇乞兒 (2010)



RATING: 2.5/5

Over the last decade, legendary martial-arts choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping has made a household name in Hollywood, notably for his successful collaboration with the Wachowski brothers in THE MATRIX movies. And it's no surprise his much-awaited return to director's chair after 1996's TAI CHI 2 is one of the highly-anticipated martial-arts blockbusters of the year. The result is TRUE LEGEND, an entertaining homage to Shaw Brothers-style that blends with old-school technique and modern vibe. It's not entirely successful, no thanks to disjointed narrative, over-reliant on CG and unnecessary patriotic third act.


The movie centers on Su Can (Vincent Zhao), a decorative Qing court warrior in 1861 China, who has saved an imperial prince (Jacky Heung) from a band of assassins. The imperial prince is so touched by his bravery that he is immediately granted Su a promotion as a governor. But the modest Su rejects the offer and claims that his adopted brother Yuan (Andy On) deserved more for the honor. All Su wants instead is to devote his life to perfect his martial arts and hope to start a family. Five years later, Su is now married to Yuan's beautiful sister Ying (Zhou Xun), and the two live happily together with their 5-year-old son Little Feng (Li Ze). But Su's father (Leung Ka-Yan) warns his son that Yuan's long-awaited return to their hometown is more than just a social visit. Apparently his father is feared that Yuan is still holding a grudge against him for responsible of killing Yuan's father a long time ago. Not surprisingly, Yuan arrives with a deadly intention after all. He has spent the last five years mastering the Five Venoms Fist, in which he risks his body with the sting of numerous scorpions. Ever since then, he have been behaving extremely out of his mind and also looking a lot different than he's originally was. He spares no mercy and easily defeated Su's father with relative ease. When Su finds out about his father's brutal death, he seeks vengeance against him but he is no match for Yuan. During a brutal duel, Little Feng begs Yuan not to kill his father and because of the child's sympathy, Yuan ends up throwing Su into a raging river. At the same time, Ying also risks her life by jumping off the river as well and miraculously, both of them survive. They are subsequently rescued by a local medicine healer Dr. Yu (Michelle Yeoh) who lives peacefully at Beidou Mountain. As Su slowly recovers from time to time, Ying helps out Dr. Yu to produce quality wine. In the meantime, Su is desperate to get his fighting strength back into form so he can avenge his father and rescue his son as well. Over the course of his intensive self-training, he finds himself being challenged by a mysterious white-bearded monk named Old Sage (Gordon Liu) and The God of Wushu (Jay Chou).

The movie works best, especially for the first two-thirds where Yuen Woo-Ping has successfully crafted a series of entertaining martial-art set pieces that mixed with old-school kung fu style aided with the enhancement of CG. The over-reliant of CG tends to get annoying at times, but it remains fun to watch for nonetheless. Among the highlights are the daring rescue scene at a cave mountain filled with armed assassins; and two amazing duels between Vincent Zhao and Andy On. Right up to this point, the movie has all the necessary aura for guilty-pleasure moments but somehow Yuen Woo-Ping and screenwriter Christine To goes overboard with the narrative thrust.

Sadly, Christine To's bloated screenplay is quite a chore to sit through, especially in the draggy mid-section involving Su's slow recovery. The fantasy-ridden fight sequence between Su and The God of Wushu is really hard to take it seriously, particularly how campy Jay Chou looks in a fancy wardrobe with eagle-shaped helmet. Not only that, she also made a colossal mistake by abruptly shifting the tone of the story into different direction. This is the part where the particular third act seems like as if it belongs from another movie altogether. Though the third act clearly intended to showcase Su with his famous Drunken Fist against a bunch of foreign fighters, the scene feels too tacky and forceful.

The cast are average at best, with Vincent Zhao returns to cinema after years exploring in television dramas. Vincent has never been an actor known for expression, but at least he remains worthwhile enough to engage the viewers with his martial-art prowess. The rest of the supporting actors are equally credible, notably for Zhou Xun who gives a sympathetic performance as Su's strong-willed wife. But cameo appearances of Michelle Yeoh and the late David Carradine is a waste of talents, with each deliver thankless roles they could have done more than just mere presence.

The movie is hardly ranked side by side with Yuen Woo-Ping's classics (IRON MONKEY, THE TAI-CHI MASTER) but as far as the Lunar New Year blockbuster goes, TRUE LEGEND delivers its fair share of rousing entertainment.

1 comment:

watch movies said...

Great review. After reading your review the plot is seeming interesting and movie will be fun to watch. The rating that you have given is not fairly good but everyone has their own choice and I will soon catch it.