Wednesday, September 21, 2011

True Legend (2010/2011)

Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Notable Cast: Vincent Zhao, Zhou Ying, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, Andy On, with cameos by David Carradine, Cung Le, and Gordon Liu

I was pumped for "True Legend". Return of Yuen Woo-Ping to the directorial chair? This should be epic! Unfortunately, Woo-Ping's return isn't all it was cracked up to be. Despite the visual flair of fanciful kung fu magic that he brings to the picture, the film suffers from severe structural flaws and some hit or miss acting performances that simply bring the entire film to a halt in many areas. Not the epic modern/classic martial arts film I was hoping it would be.

Su Can (Zhao) is one of China's best generals, but his need to settle down has made him want to lead a new life with wife Ying (Xun). So he leaves his military role to his adopted brother Yuan (On) and begins to practice wushu intensly with his new family - which now includes Little Feng, his son. Years later, Yuan returns to visit his adopted family, but he seeks revenge for the death of his real father. He kidnaps Su's son and forces Su and Ying to flee to the mountains. Now Su must retrain himself to fight off Yuan and put his family back together.

Rain makes any fight sequence more epic.
One thing is for certain with "True Legend" and that's Yuen Woo-Ping and his wicked visual style. This film perfectly homages classic kung fu style and look, blends it with a fantastical element, and approaches it with a rather modern vision. Just the style of the film earns it merit for fans of the genre. Woo-Ping builds the film in unique ways mostly due to the fantastical element (including training sessions with the God Of Wushu (Jay Chou) that appear on giant CGI statues and the main villain who's Five Venom Fist style and metal plating make him a bit out there) and really focuses on the style of the fighting. For this, the film succeeds and with some decent acting it gets the job done.

Just from his look, you would NEVER guess he was the villain of the film. NEVER.
What hurts "True Legend" is the horridly used structure of the film. It starts off with a franchise like opening, indicating that this is the story of how Su became the legendary wushu master he was. There it kicks off into our main story of the loss of his son to the villain Yuan and his redemption as he goes to save his family. Oddly enough, this is only half of the movie. From there it leaps to further in time to when Su trains in drunken boxing and has to fight off a slew of westerners...WHAT? It already had a full movie worth of material that it speeds ass through. Thusly, many elements in both parts are brushed over. Our awesome villains are vaguely built, our hero leaps through emotions, and the plot has to bust its ass to fit it all in. It's frustrating to watch this film suffer from this flaw.

A Yuen Woo-Ping moment if I've ever seen one.
"True Legend" remains a solid film to watch for its visual prowess and stellar kung fu fight sequences (including a stunning fight between our hero and the main villain), but the entire thing is undercut by its lackadaisical pacing and horrible storytelling mechanics. It should have been split into two films, but as is, we get one mediocre film that finds itself rushing through the motions.  Not the epic I wanted to see.

Written By Matt Reifschneider
"True Legend" has to be calling your name. You have to see it to believe it and Blood Brothers has the links below to make it come true. Click. Purchase. Support the cult film scene. 

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