Starring Vincent Zhao, Yang Mi, Fan Sui-Wong (Louis Fan), Josie Xu, Dennis To
Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen
Directed by Patrick Leung
Wu Dang is another attempt at trying to merge mystical kung fu with Indiana Jones-style adventures. The last really lame attempt was Jet Li’s Dr Wai in the Scripture with No Words, and that would be enough trepidation with this film. Add to that Vincent Zhao, who’s been embroiled in a scandal involving diva behavior on the set of a recent Donnie Yen film, and of course fight choreographer Corey “slummin’ it in the USA” Yuen, and no one could be blamed for taking a cautious approach to watching this film.
So I’ll tell you right now: Have no fear, it’s terrific.
Wu Dang centers around Professor Tang (Zhao) and his teenage daughter Tangning (Xu), who are on a quest to get to Wu Dang mountain, by entering a tournament that Tang is sponsoring, in and effort to search the mountain for the Seven Treasures of Wu Dang. Things get complicated as a thief named Tianxin (Mi) searched for one of the treasures, a sword that belongs to her family. On the way there Tangning meets a man named Shui Heyi (Fan), who is trying to become a Taoist monk to try to care for his mother, and a strange friendship forms between them. Tang and Tianxin form an uneasy alliance in order to get the treasures, but beyond the dangers of that is the threat from a man whom Tang steals a map from, and the head monk Bailong (To) who is more than what he seems…
Wu Dang, or “How Corey Yuen Got His Groove Back” is a thrilling adventure film that does a great job telling this story and weaving enough emotional content to the fights to get us to care about the characters and what happens to them. The film paces everything well, and the effects work is nothing short of fantastic. My only issue in regards to the story is that one character’s story arc remained unresolved by the end. which makes it maddening, but not so much as to ruin the film.
Zhao plays Tang with great intelligence and bravery, and vulnerability when the true nature of his search for the treasures are revealed. Tangning has good chemistry with Fan Sui-Wong , as both of them spend most of their screen time together, and Yang Mi has the same with Zhao, without which the movie would fail. Dennis To shows a lot of range as he plays the main villain, something very different from his part in The Legend is Born: Ip Man. Patrick Leung really captures some gorgeous shots of the mountain itself, and of all of the fights. The cinematography is truly something great here.
Corey Yuen does his best work in many a year here. The wirework is flawless, and integrates itself into this world without being obtrusive, and the fight escalate at a good pace, and the cinematography really captures Corey’s work, particularly in the fight between Zhao and the swords women on the bridge, and Josie Xu’s fight with Sui Wong Fan during the tournament, which is a great display of how storytelling can work within a fight itself, as both characters come to a realization during the fight that drives the most emotional parts of the story home. It’s also the most beautiful sequence in the entire film, and both Fan and Xu pull it off (If they ever make another Tekken film Xu has got to play Lin Xiaoyu).
Wu Dang represents a great return to form for Corey Yuen and a great performance by Vincent Zhao, and it all comes in service of a good story.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9
Vincent Zhao and company deliver a fun, involving kung-fu film that features some of the best fight choreography Corey Yuen has done in quite some time.
NEXT: Gordon Liu is an evil bastard in Kill ’Em All!