TRUE LEGEND (2011)
Rating: 3 on 4 / Pre-order the DVD here
Directed by Woo-ping Yuen
Starring Man Cheuk Chiu, Xun Zhou, Michelle Yeoh, and David Carradine
True Legend opens today in select theaters!
THE PLAN:Two warrior foster brothers go their separate ways after saving a Prince's life only to re-connect years later. Su (Man Cheuk Chiu) moved back home to become a Wushu master, marries his foster sister, has a kid, and lives the dream. Yuan (Andy On) stayed as a warrior for the Prince, became an evil Governor, and perfect the fatal Five Fingers of Death. When Yuan comes back home to pay Su a visit, their slightly incestuous relationship with their sister boils over to a tale filled with revenge and enlightenment. Oh, and lots and lots of epic ass-kicking.
THE KILL: Sometimes all you want out of life is a rough-and-tumble kung-fu flick reminiscent of kung-fu’s 1970s glory days. Elaborate stunts, grand sets, intercut costume designs, and the magical power of (what appears to be) flying through the air in the middle of an epic fight sequence. While these types of flicks are a dime a dozen in China, we rarely see them released in the U.S., theatrically or otherwise (except maybe on DVD, I guess). But when the choreographer of the critically acclaimed CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON directs and choreographs one of these flicks, you know people will start talking—and for good reason, too. Hence is the case with TRUE LEGEND, a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am kung action flick filled with enough ass-kicking awesome to satisfy old-school kung-fu fans and modern audiences alike.
Director Woo-Ping Yuen has the visual eye to create beautiful set-pieces and astonishing cinematography in his films that it’s almost a shame that he’s making action movies—because if it weren’t action, he might get some acknowledgement from the larger award shows (yep, Oscar, I’m talkin’ to you!). On the other hand, who wants to sit through a boring drama (as beautiful as it may be) I sure as shit don’t. I want action, and that’s where Yuen delivers tenfold over his other directorial accomplishments. And TRUE LEGEND does not disappoint! The fight sequences are epic in every sense of the word, from the cast of hundreds duking it out on the battlefield in the beginning, to the one-on-one fight sequences between Chui and On—the scale and the magnitude of these fights is like watching ballet or some sort of magic show filled with dancing and movement that you usually only get by checking out a show in Vegas. Yes, it’s hardcore action, but hot-damn is it an artform!
But straight-up ass-kicking doesn’t make (or break) a movie, right? But a good villain… for an action flick to be really effective you have to have a good villain, and TRUE LEGEND delivers (and then some) with the evil Governor Yuen Lie (Andy On), who not only looks like an evil f*cker with his pasty pale skin and sewn-to-his-body armor (which is f*cking badass, by the way), but his action speak even louder than his looks. He’s ruthless, he uses his perfect Five Fingers of Death move on just about everyone he encounters (a deadly one-punch kill), he wants to have a family with his sister (whaaaa?), and he obviously never heard the phrase “don’t kill the messenger” as he kills anybody who gives him bad news. The reason for his over-taking is ruthless, and what he does to the film’s hero is pretty hardcore, making for one of the more memorable movie bad-guys that we’ve seen in awhile. Bravo!
Man Cheuk Chiu plays the film’s hero quite admirably: he’s likable most the time but eventually turns into a real a-hole… but a likable a-hold none-the-less. His skills in the Wushu martial art pays the bills and when he lays the smack down… he really lays the smack down. A few familiar faces also show up in the flick, including CROUCHING TIGER’s Michelle Yeoh and the late, great David Carradine. Other characters, such as the God of Wushu and the Old Sage were fun to watch and their interaction with the hero was fun and entertaining, making for an overall fun-time all around.
I actually enjoyed the film quite heavily for the most part… that is, until the last 25 minutes or so. The film appears to end, the storyline that we’ve followed the entire movie wraps itself up, and yet… the film continues to go on and on and on, as if they decided they needed to tack on another storyline that sort of comes out of the blue. This move took me out of the movie and had me waiting for the end because… in a way, that’s all this last sequence was. The epilogue at the end of the story that is supposed to wrap everything up, not drag it on and on and on. And while there are some cool action sequences in this last half, it feels like it belonged in a different movie altogether.
On the action side of things, TRUE LEGEND delivers tenfold, with extravagant action sequences, stylized ass-kicking, and a bad guy who’s about as bad as they get. The first three quarters plays like a blissful revenge flick of the old-school kung-fu way that was about as satisfying as they get; however, that final quarter felt like it should have belonged in a different movie entirely and seemed to drag on and on with no end in sight. In the end, director Woo-ping Yuen delivered the action, choreography, and cinematography with flying colors, it’s just a shame that the narrative fell short of it being totally awesome.
Trailer for TRUE LEGEND!
TOP DEATH: There's a ton of cool deaths to choose from here, but the one that tickled my funny bone the most featured a single sword impaling one warriror, then used to impale another warrior while still in the chest of the first one! Others were more satisfying, but goddamn that shit was cool!
TOP ACTION SCENE: The opening sequence is definitely one of the coolest sequences in the movie because it involves flying arrows, throwing daggers, swinging swords, and bare-knuckled ass-kicking. There's even a "cut-down-the-flimsy-bridge-filled-with-bad-dudes" scene that would make Indiana Jones proud. In terms of having a little bit of everything, this sequence sets up the film nicely and leaves you wanting more.
TOP HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: Besides the funky hair style and all that long hair, there's nothing really of note here. At least, nothing blatant or obvious, though there is one dude who worships the ground Su walks on near the end... and that's just plain weird for a grown man to do.
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: There's no nudity, but the film does feature sweaty close-ups of Ying (Xun Zhou) more than once, and the fact that she's essentially treated like a piece of meat or "the prize" for the step-brothers to battle over is somewhat unsettling. Plus... why did she have a baby with her foster brother? And why does her real-life blood brother want to have a family with her? Since when is it ok to f*ck your sister, anyway?
It's all subtitled so it's hard to recall the best lines, but if this shit were dubbed there'd be plenty of classic old-school kung-fu lines to spout off here.
DRINKING GAME: Every time Su drinks a jug of wine (or whatever he's getting drunk off of) you got to drink too! Beware: this guy is a f*cking alcoholic!
TRIVIA: David Carradine died almost 2 years ago exactly (June 3, 2009), and yet here he is in this 2011 release. Carradine still has two movies under his belt that still have not been released (but aim to sometime this year). Talk about a legacy!