True Legend

Note, this review contains SPOILERS, but frankly, nothing that happens in this movie is particularly surprising, it is after all primarily about intense displays of martial arts and not deep involved story telling.

Su Can, after retiring from his life as a renowned Qing dynasty general and handing over his Governor position to his half brother Yuan returns to his home to start a family and his own Wushu school.  But when Yuan Lie returns after several years for the birthday of his adopted father and you learn that his true father was killed at this surrogate father’s hands.  Yuan, who has now mastered the evil art of the Five Deadly Venoms, kills him in revenge and then defeats Su Can in combat, kidnaps his son and leaves Su for dead. Su Can is saved from his demise by his wife Ying and the reclusive doctor Yu (played my Michelle Yeoh) and he has to recover his destroyer arm and train until he is powerful enough to defeat Yuan.  He’s aided by a goofy old guy who looks like Pai Mei from Kill Bill Vol. 2 called "Old Sage" and the "God of Wushu", whom Su must defeat in combat in order to be able to master Wushu.  He then returns to challenge Yuan for revenge, but Su Can gets the shit end of the stick once again, and his defeat results in tragedy.

The then movie switches gears, jumps ahead in time, and Su Can has become Beggar Su, a drunken bum who gets walked around by his son on a leash.  Su ends up meeting another strange character and masters the art of drunken boxing.  He eventually has to put his fighting skills to the test against a bunch of foreigners in a death match ala Fearless with Jet Li.

OK, so story wise, the movie plays out a bit disjointed and probably should have been broken into two films to properly flesh out each part.  When Su defeats Yuan a little past the midway point of the movie that would have been the logical point to end it, but then they decided to tack on the second chapter where Su Can is a drunken beggar.  I appreciate it in the sense that we get some sweet drunken boxing, but it frankly feels like a different movie.  The first half has much more of a fantasy feel to it, whereas the second eschews pretty much all of that. 

Also, I have to say that it seemed a bit odd to me that in the first half Su Can is essentially this super warrior with basically magical abilities, and is able to defeat a guy who can kill you with one hit by using a magical poisoning kung fu (the aforementioned five deadly venoms) but then he has trouble fighting a bunch of big dumb wrestlers in the second half.  What?  Were they trying to show that he’d lost his skills because he became too much of a drunk, and that’s the fight that gets him back on track?  That’s what I’m going with anyway, because to me, that seems to work.

But really, the reason to watch this film is for the fighting and let me tell you, THIS IS HOW IT IS DONE and Woo-Ping Yuen knows how to do it!  I mean this guy has worked on some of the greatest kung fun movies out there (Drunken Master, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Iron Monkey, Black Mask, Once Upon a Time in China, not to mention The Matrix and Kill Bill Vol 1&2), but this one is right at the top for sheer fighting spectacle.  There are literally some of the most epic Kung Fu battles I have ever seen in a movie on display here.  Wires are certainly used, but I felt that the fighting seemed a lot more intense and much less floaty than that style tends to produce which was a good thing.  The movie is rated R so it doesn’t hold off from people being slashed and stabbed and there’s plenty of slow motion shots of fists slamming into faces and blood spraying out of mouths.

The acting was actually pretty solid for the most part with one exception; Su Can’s son was fucking annoying.  His crying sounded so fake it was painful, and unfortunately he does a lot of it, especially in the second half of the story.  Sadly he does not end up on the receiving end of any kung-fu to shut him the hell up…oh well.

Despite the movie suffering from trying to pack two dissimilar stories into one film, I still gotta say that this was one hell of a ride.  If you are in any way entertained by martial arts fighting or even just impressive physical feats of action you NEED to see this movie.  Fucking grade A kung fu action here folks!