Archive for the Michelle Yeoh Category

Review: Butterfly & Sword (1993)

Posted in Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung with tags , , on October 8, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung, Donnie Yen, Jimmy Lin, Elvis Tsui, Joey Wong

Fight Choreography by Ching Siu-Tung

Directed By Michael Mak

When Butterfly Sword went into production, Michelle Yeoh was an international superstar, Tony Leung was hot off of John Woo’s Hard Boiled, and Donnie Yen was becoming a star after his performance in OUATIC 2, so any film that puts them all together has to be good, right?

Right?

Butterfly & Sword takes place in ancient China and centers around a war between a group of killers known as the Assassins of Happy Forest, led by Lady Ko (Yeoh) and her two friends, Meng Sing Wan (Leung) and Yip Cheung (Yen), and their war is with Lord Suen for control…of the martial arts world, which is a good way of saying the writers couldn’t come up with something better. The story mainly centers around Meng Sing, who is married to Butterfly (Wong), whose father was a great martial artist who wanted to make sure she never involved herself in martial arts, and she is unaware of Meng Sing’s double life as an assassin. Drama also exists among the three assassins as Yip Cheung is in love with Lady Ko, but she doesn’t love him, rather, she loves Meng Sing, and of course Meng Sing loves Butterfly. Things get complicated when Lady Ko accepts a mission from Eunuch Tsao to spy on Lord Suen and reveal his treachery. The mission forces the three to reveal their true feelings, but Lady Ko’s ambitions threaten to destroy them all, Butterfly included…

Where this film truly falls flat is with the characters and the storytelling. The primary problems with the Assassins is that none of them outside of Tony Leung are likable. Donnie Yen is kind of a puss, and Michelle Yeoh just comes off like… a trifflin’ bitch. Completely unlikable, and we also don’t get enough time to know the characters. We just get a cliff notes version, which doesn’t really inform us of why some of them take the actions that they do. The story here is what burns me to no end, and in particular it’s in regards to the final act of the film.  In fact what’s so infuriating about it is that a moment/reveal occurs that could have happened earlier in the film that would have SOLVED THE WHOLE DAMN PROBLEM. One of the characters in the film knew what was going on, and was so powerful he beats the bad guy in like five seconds, while the heroes were getting their asses kicked for five minutes and going through fight after fight. It was an overly convenient way to end the film, as if the writers ran out of ideas and needed a fast way to get the villain defeated. Not only that, but the main villain does something so impossible that it brought me right out of the film, and I couldn’t believe they had the gall to go there. Also, the film ends so abruptly it looked as if there was several minutes missing from the film.

The mostly wire assisted fights are decent, but not great, and border on the ridiculous, but the fights where everyone is fairly grounded is good, filled with fast movements an good choreography, and there are even some interesting deaths in the film, but none of the fights truly impressed me. Some of the edits of the fights were shoddy and occasionally didn’t make sense in regards to the movements we just saw. Too many edits ruin whatever good fights there were.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

Butterfly & Sword is not a very well done film, even if the fights are okay. Audiences will have to wait until Hero to see Tony Leung and Donnie Yen in a good film together.

NEXT: Uma Thurman is out for revenge in Kill Bill Volume 1!

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Review: Wing Chun (1994)

Posted in Chui Siu Keung, Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on October 30, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen, Cheng Pei Pei, Chui Siu Keung

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Yuen Woo Ping

Wing Chun follows the adventures of the titular character Yim Wing Chun (Yeoh) who is the greatest martial artist in her small town, but is unable to get married as she concentrates more on her Wing Chun training rather than catching a man, unlike her sister, who is married at the beginning of the film, leaving Wing Chun and her aunt Abacus Fong with running their tofu shop. The local Scholar takes notice of Wing Chun and tries to woo her, even though he only wants to marry her to help him keep the bandits away from robbing him. Of course she would rather spend her time whupping up on bandits, and during a town festival they attack and try to kidnap a young woman named Charmy, and the village men try to help but as they really suck, Wing Chun has to intervene in a fun, fantastically choreographed fight that really shows off Michelle Yeoh’s flexibility and grace. The whupping she gives them comes to the attention of the two brothers who lead the bandits, Flying Monkey and Flying Chimpanzee (Keung) who want to beat the tar out of her. Things get complicated when childhood friend of hers Leung Pok To (Yen) shows up with the intention of marrying her, but as he hasn’t seen her in years mistakes Charmy for her, and this shakes Wing Chun’s resolve for the first time as Pok To thinks that Wing Chun is a man because she dresses in men’s wear ( Now that is pure fantasy. Mistake the beautiful Michelle Yeoh for a man just because she’s wearing men’s clothing? Negro please.)

Things get bad after Wing Chun castrates Flying Monkey with a piece of burning wood during a fight, which should be a final lesson to all men about doing wild jumps in the air with their legs wide open during a fight. Of course Flying Chimpanzee gets pissed at this, and kidnaps Charmy after defeating Wing Chun, and she and Pok To have to team up to defeat the bandits once and for all…and Wing Chun has to somehow convince Pok To that she really is the girl he’s been looking for…

Wing Chun, in all reality, is a rom-com with kung fu. When there isn’t any fighting then the audience gets embroiled in the comedy of errors as Aunty plots to win the heart of the Scholar no matter what, and Charmy falls for Pok To, and Pok To falls for Charmy but only because he thinks she’s Wing Chun, and Wing Chun isn’t sure about what the hell to do with any of it. This is standard Hong Kong comedy, and as such you’re either with it or you’re not. There isn’t really any middle ground with it, and I liked it as a whole. Michelle Yeoh is great as Wing Chun, in the way that while she is a great fighter, she’s not so confident when it comes to love and romance. Donnie Yen does get to flex his comedy muscles as well as fighting—but not that much, since this is Yeoh’s show. No one actually dies in this film, as it is meant to be a lighthearted romp (at least as much as a movie that has a guy get castrated by a burning wooden shard can be) and even has a really sugary happy ending, in which pretty much everyone gets married and lives happily ever after.

I’ve said before that Yuen Woo Ping has to be one of—if not the—greatest fight choreographer of all time, and he’s done nothing to make me think any different. All of the Michelle Yeoh versus Chui Sui Kueng fights are well done, and is the main showcase of the film. Woo Ping’s imagination goes deep again as he features a fight on top of two running horses that is just…well, Woo Ping. Donnie Yen’s few fights are all good, but as his character isn’t supposed to be as good a fighter as Wing Chun, his fights aren’t nearly as impressive as any of Michelle Yeoh’s.

Wing Chun is probably the most harmless of all of Woo Ping’s films. It’s isn’t heavy at all, tells a nice but kinda forgettable romantic slapstick comedy kinda story, and has some very good fight scenes.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Once again Woo Ping digs into his bag for more imaginative fights. Since the film isn’t a serious one, the fights carry less weight than normal, but in no way does that mean the fights aren’t worth seeing. The final fight is the best one as Wing Chun uses strategy to defeat her opponent. Very little wire-work compared to Woo Ping’s other films made around that time.

STUNTWORK: (7) The stunt men did their jobs in this film, and performed admirably, but there wasn’t anything too crazy in this film.

STAR POWER: (8) Michelle Yeoh was near the top of her stardom, and Donnie Yen was still not living up to his potential, but you could see it was there. Chui Siu Keung (Duel To Death) is always great to see.

FINAL GRADE: (8) Wing Chun is a lighthearted comedy that wears it’s intentions on its sleeve, and Michelle Yeoh gives a great performance as Wing Chun, and the fight scenes are are great as normal for Woo Ping.

Review: Reign of Assassins (2010)

Posted in John Woo, Jung Woo-sung, Michelle Yeoh on October 25, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Michelle Yeoh, Jung Woo-Sung, Kelly Lin, Barbie Hsu, Shawn Yue, Xueqi Wang, Leon Dai

Fight Choreography by Stephen Tung

Directed by John Woo and Su Chao-pin

Michelle Yeoh has been steadily working in front of the camera for years ever since Yes, Madam, and she’s had a tremendously good run of films. On the opposite side of that spectrum John Woo has been floundering around Hollywood after such a stellar career in Hong Kong, and really only churned out one decent film, Face/Off. Surprise, surprise, everything changed when he returned to Hong Kong and made the kick-ass 2 film epic Red Cliff (you can read my thoughts on this repeating situation here). Now with this newfound currency John returns to wuxia films with Reign of Assassins.

The film follows Drizzle (Lin) a member of the dreaded Dark Stone, a group of some of the most deadly Assassins ever assembled. Included in her group is The Magician (Dai), Lei Bin (Yue) and their leader the Wheel King (Wang). They are on a mission for the Wheel King to retrieve the mummified remains of Bodhi, the Indian monk who began what would become kung-fu. It is said that whomever controls the remains can wield untold martial arts power. Now, the remains are split in two, and one half is being held by Prime Minister Zhang and his son Renfang. Both are attacked and killed, and Drizzle steals the remains and flees from her own group to her mentor Wisdom, who has decided to become a monk. He is able to enlighten Drizzle about her own evil ways, and is able to turn her away from violence. She hides the remains of Bodhi and has a face change operation that changes her from the beautiful actress Kelly Lin to the just as beautiful actress Michelle Yeoh. Now that’s the way plastic surgery should be done! Now going under the name of Zeng Jing, Drizzle tries to lead the life of a simply cloth merchant. She meets and falls in love with a courier, and gets married (Woo-Sung) in comical scene of romance that might make you think this is a wuxia rom com…

…and then you remember the title of the film, and things go to hell quickly after a fateful trip to the bank, and suddenly the Dark Stone know about Zeng and her husband, and Zeng finds that she must deal with the Assassins and her replacement, the crazy-as-hell Turquoise (Hsu) who still want the remains of the Bodhi, and Zeng must fight and win or lose everything good she has gained in her new life, but the situation isn’t as cut and dried as she thinks it is…

Reign of Assassins continues the return to form for John Woo, who was a consultant for director Su Chao-Pin but consults so much that he earned the credit as a co-director. Surprisingly there aren’t that many sets if you actually count them, as the locations are relegated to a few spots. The camera work is well done, and does a good job of following the action. The story is mostly good except for one giant plot twist that hits after the mid-point of the film that no real clues were provided for before it is revealed, and also the story explains how the Assassins find out that Drizzle is in town, but not how they know she is Zeng Jing. It seems they just magically know. We also get into the life, very briefly, of one of the Assassins, but it doesn’t go anywhere, and ends abruptly so the result, which is supposed to garner some sort of emotion, doesn’t garner any emotional payoff at all.

The actors do a great job, and it’s great to see Michelle Yeoh as Zeng Ling. She portrays the conflicted, yet kind, but always dangerous Zeng Jing with depth to see her want of a peaceful life conflict at times with the killer she used to be. Jung Woo-sung is a great contrast to Yeoh, as he brings a playfulness to the role of her future husband Jiang Ah-sheng, and he truly has some funny moments. I really can’t go further without mentioning Barbie Hsu, who plays the craziest evil bitch this side of Fatal Attraction, plays Turquoise with a sense of fun as she channels an inner crazy person even as she is in various stages of undress (she gets naked a lot, but they don’t show anything, so calm it down, ya’ll). You’ll cheer when you see her get her comeuppance.

The fights are good, but not great except for the fight that comes when the Big Twist is revealed. Unfortunately it isn’t a fight that involves Michelle Yeoh. The fights are mostly swordplay and no real hand to hand, but that’s to be expected from a wire-assisted film like this. This more about style rather than application, so the fights look good, and are fast enough, but it’s just missing that visceral impact. The best fight choreography finds the best balance between “screen fighting” and reality (at least to me) which is why I’ve never been too keen on wire-harness films (Woo-Ping is able to find this balance even with a lot of wire-assisted fights).

Reign of Assassins is a good film, but a few lapses in story logic and some of the fight choreography keep it from being a truly great experience, but Michelle Yeoh still shows she’s got “it”.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Not the greatness it could have been with the exception of one fight. It tries too hard to try to be a Crouching Tiger kind of fight choreography with John Woo photography rather than trying to find its own creative voice. All of the fights are still well staged and performed, however.

STUNTWORK: (5) Nothing much here. Everyone is adequate, but the wirework is pretty basic. Nothing spectacular here.

STAR POWER: (8) Michelle Yeoh continues to do good work and Jung Woo-sung (The Good, The Bad, The Weird, The Warrior) easily holds his own. John Woo also continues his comeback.

FINAL GRADE: (8) A good Michelle Yeoh film that just misses that mark of greatness by a little bit, but her scenes with Jung Woo-sung are the best parts of the film, and makes it worth taking a look.

Review: Yes, Madam! (1985)

Posted in Corey Yuen, Cynthia Rothrock, Dick Wei, Fat Chung, James Tien, Michelle Yeoh, Sammo Hung with tags , on October 6, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

Starring Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock, James Tien, Dick Wei, Fat Chung, Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by Corey Yuen

Women in martial arts films, particularly the early films, have always been a mixed bag. On one hand, especially in the Shaw Brothers films, the women can kick some serious ass. On the other, it seems that they still need the men to come and save them at the end. Of course there were exceptions to the rule, Angela Mao being one of them. But in 1985 two women broke into the scene and changed everything. Jackie Chan discovered Michelle Yeoh while working on a commercial together. Cynthia Rothrock was a martial arts champion, and had come to the attention of Sammo Hung. Corey Yuen, another one of the Seven Little Fortunes decided to put them both into his next film, and it would define both women for the next decade and advance women in action films forevermore…

The film opens as we meet resident ass-kicker Inspector Ng (Yeoh) who foils a robbery of an armored car, and flips and spins her way around shooting the living hell out of a bunch of dudes as if to announce “ the ladies are the badasses in this film, folks!” Afterward Ng announces she is heading for a vacation with a British gentleman, but her plans are canceled when her friend is, well, canceled by a hitman named Dick (Wei) who killed the man for Mr. Tin (Tien) a douchebag business man who needs to get a microfilm that shows his involvement in an illegal deal involving forged documents. Before Dick can get them two bumbling thieves Strepsil and Aspirin break into the room and steal the dead man’s passport, not realizing that the man was dead and the film was in the passport, and they take it to their partner Panadol (Hark). Ng is brought into the case, but must take on British Inspector Carrie Morris (Rothrock) as her partner. The three thieves slowly become aware that they are in over their heads as the police and the hitmen get closer to them both, and they try to avoid prison and death…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

Yes, Madam will most certainly not be known for its acting, which I have to admit is not too good for the main leads, but this was pretty much the first film for both women, and in the end it won’t hurt the enjoyment of the film…much. What it does show is the onscreen presence of both Yeoh and Rothrock.

It is also refreshing to see that both female characters beat the tar out of everyone without needing to be “saved” by a man. They carried the action on their own, and take as much punishment as they doled out. The comedy and lightness of the film are carried admirably by John Sham , Hoi Mang, and Tsui Hark in a rare film appearance. After a time their bumbling around does test the patience of the audience, but the fights reward the patience later. Dick Wei is as good as always playing an utter douchebag and badass, which he excels at, and Fat Chung is as ridiculous as I’ve ever seen him, and it takes a special kind of over the top acting to distract you from his mustache, which I swear could be its own character in this film. James Tien doesn’t do much in this film except laugh…a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fights throughout the film are good, but I did have some issue with the editing, which seemed scatter-shot between showing closeup shots and panoramic shots of the action. It seemed as if the editor didn’t really know how to edit the fights as Yuen had choreographed. The exception to this was the final fight, which lets everyone cut loose, and no one disappoints here. Cynthia shows why she came to Sammo’s attention, as her movements are crisp and can easily hang with the Corey Yuen style of fight choreography, and the same holds true for Michelle, which is amazing when you consider the fact that she knew no martial arts when she made this film. The fight between Cynthia and Dick Wei is particularly satisfying and the overall asskicking here is more than enough to satisfy any martial arts fan. The ending was a bit odd, but it doesn’t take anything away from the effort, and the two women it would propel to stardom.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) The overall choreography is good, and the final fight is fantastic as everyone is given a moment to shine, but some of the earlier fights aren’t as great as they could have been due to the editing.

STUNTWORK: (8) Not quite Jackie Chan crazy, but close as they guys took some nasty spills, especially in the last fight. That poor bastard Michelle Yeoh dropped from the 2nd level to the ground by the bar…yeowch.

STARPOWER: (9) Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock’s stars would only rise after this, and Dick Wei is always good, as is James Tien and Sammo Hung in cameo rolls, and some of the Lucky Stars (Dennis Chan, Richard Ng) appear here as well.

FINAL GRADE: (8) A good small budget film that has some fun moments and good fight choreography, but gets the high mark for introducing Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock to the world.

Review: Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Posted in Jackie Chan, James Hong, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh with tags , on May 29, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Featuring the voices of: Jack Black, Gary Oldman, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh, and James Hong.

Fight Choreography by Rodolphe Guenoden

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Kung Fu Panda was a huge hit when it came out, at the time the biggest hit Dreamworks animation had that wasn’t named Shrek. After the film became a huge success, Dreamworks let it slip that they had 6 Kung Fu Panda films planned, that would tell the story of Po. Without a doubt it’s an ambitious undertaking, and now we have Kung Fu Panda 2. Is there enough story to sustain 6 films?

I don’t know, but this film proves that the answer may be closer to yes than you might think.

The film opens with a 2-D animation, just like the previous film, but this time we are told the story of Lord Shen (Oldman), a prince in his province who yearns to be a great emperor and rule China. Shen is told by his father’s Soothsayer (Yeoh) that if he continues on his quest, a warrior of black and white would destroy him. Shen scoffs at this prophecy, and goes on a killing spree, destroying every panda village he could find, wiping them all out. For his evil deed Shen’s father cast him out, and years later the story begins…

Po (Black)  is now a fully integrated member of the Furious Five–er, six now. The Five now have come to love Po, and completely accept him as the Dragon Warrior. Shifu has reached inner peace due the events of the previous film, and begins to teach the same to Po when a nearby village is being raided by Lord Shen’s wolf guards. Po and the Furious Five face them in a fantastic fight that shows just how good Po is, and how he fights as one with the Five, but the wolves escape when Po sees a symbol on their armor and has a flashback to something that happened when he was a baby…

Meanwhile, in Gongmen City, Lord Shen approaches the Kung Fu Council, headed by Master Thundering Rhino, along with Lord Croc (JCVD) and Master Storming Ox. He challenges them for his father’s throne, and defeats the other lords to get to the Rhino, whom he is unable to defeat, and unleashes a new weapon, a cannon, and kills Master Rhino. Shifu (Hoffman) is alerted to this, and sends Po and the Five to go and stop him, but little does Po know that facing Lord Shen means facing who he really is and where he comes from. Secrets are revealed, and Po’s life will never be the same again…

The story here is very much an old school kung-fu film revenge story, although it doesn’t start out that way. There is far more drama than in the previous film, as this film doesn’t question whether Po is the Dragon Warrior. It questions who Po actually is, and why his father is a goose. Po goes on a journey that changes him, and it is a well told story. The audience really gets to see the Furious Five in action the entire film this time. No bite size morsels here. There isn’t much of Shifu in this film, but that’s okay, because when he does appear it’s worth it. I was saddened that there wasn’t any Master Oogway, since he ascended in the previous film, but I was happy to see he was the Dreamworks logo at the beginning of the film. I guess there’s more Master Oogway love out there than I thought! (If there’s a Master Oogway T-shirt I’d buy it in a heartbeat.)

Jack Black once again does a great job as Po, and handles the dramatic scenes with ease. Angelina Jolie takes a softer-but-not-quite performance as Tigress, who doesn’t often show much emotion, but when it appears, it’s heartwarming to see how much she truly cares about Po. All of the rest of the five do a great job, and Jackie Chan gets more speaking lines than what Monkey had in the previous film, but then again they all do. Gary Oldman plays Lord Shen like the ruthless opportunist that he is, cunning and smart, but cannot get his ego out of his own way, which proves to be his undoing. And for anyone wondering, Lord Croc (JCVD) DOES do the splits, which made me laugh out loud. Funny enough that Soothsayer, as played by Michelle Yeoh, turns out to be not so different from her last role as Dr. Yu in True Legend.

The fighting is even better in this film than in the last. It’s fast, but not so much that you can’t see the wonderful fight choreography. The fight inside the palace toward the middle of the film is as much a showstopper as the prison escape from the first film, and the first fight of Po and the Five versus the wolf warriors was terrific. Once again this is like a Sammo Hung film in animated disguise, but tossing in his cohorts Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao for good measure.  Each member of the Five have a way of fighting that is immediately recognized as kung-fu, and they way they aid each other is a fun thing to see. Lord Shen is a dangerous fighter, but not in the same way that Tai Lung was in the first film. Shen is an intelligent backstabber who uses knives and a spear to fight with grace and speed rather than power and rage.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is better than the first film in many ways, and the surprise ending alone shows that Po’s personal journey will continue. So there could be four more chapters? I’m excited to see what they do next!

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) They really outdid themselves, and give Rodolpho a hand for having the animators stage fight choreography that’s every but as complex as anything you’d see in an old school Shaw Brothers film.

STAR POWER: (10) Just look at the names above. Big named stars mixed with martial arts stars. Wow.

FINAL GRADE: (10) A fantastic animated film that trumps the original. Po’s journey is a dramatic one that changes his character, and deepens his relationships with the Furious Five. A great tribute to all martial arts films, and why we love them so much!

NEXT:  Bruce Li returns for The Image of Bruce Lee!

Review: True Legend (2010)

Posted in Andy On, David Carradine, Gordon Liu, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, Vincent Zhao, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , , on May 17, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Vincent Zhao, Andy On, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, Gordon Liu, Zhou Xun

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed By Yuen Woo Ping

After serving up some of his best fight choreography for other directors and their films, Woo Ping jumps back into the directing saddle for his first 3D film. As a disclaimer, I didn’t watch the 3D version, so I can’t really speak to how “good” the 3D is, not that it really matters. After all, this is Woo Ping, right?

True Legend tells the story of the famous Beggar Su, who was said to have created the form of drunken boxing. The film starts off with a bang as General Su, as he was known at one time, leads a daring raid against another tribe to save his commander and the fighting that ensues is vintage Woo-Ping: good use of wires, acrobatic and lyrical fight choreography that never forgets the life and death at play. In other words, they all look great whaling on each other. Su vs the general of the opposing army is some of Woo Ping’s best choreography in years. Su saves his commander, and is commended and offered a governorship, but Su refuses, instead giving it to his foster brother Yuan (Andy On). Little does Su know that his act of friendship would also be the source of his impending tragedy.

Years later Yuan shows up at the home of Su and his family, and we find that Yuan’s real father was killed by Su’s father long ago, after Yuan’s father starting going around killing other kung-fu people with his Five Venom Fist kung-fu style. Yuan has learned this style also, and it evidently turns your skin bone white! Yuan kills Su’s father, and another fantastic fight ensues when Su goes after Yuan, and meets the kung-fu version of the wonder twins, called the Iron Twins. Both brother and sister give Su one hell of a fight, and Su is able to get past them and tries to save his wife Ying and their son from Yuan and duels him, and we come to our first Holy Shit! moment, when we find that Yuan, being the crazy bastard he is, has actually attached his armor to his skin.Yuan then zaps Su with his Five Venom Fist, and the next Holy Shit! moment occurs as we see the poison turn Su into a human blueberry. Su and Ying escape, but they leave their son Little Feng behind. Su and his wife are saved by Dr. Yu (Yeoh) a woman who lives atop a mountain, who treats Su’s wounds, and they stay with her, but over time Su starts to go off into the forest and is challenged by the God of Wushu (Chou) and is watched by the Old Sage (Liu) who try to get his kung-fu in tip top shape. A disturbing moment causes Ying to attempt to save Little Feng herself, and Su goes after them both. Can he save his family and stop Yuan without killing him?

Yuen Woo Ping is back in Iron Monkey form, folks, having lost none of his imaginative choreography. Almost every fight in this film would have been the climatic fight of many others. Woo Ping has scenes with Su and the God of Wushu that uses just about every damn weapon chinese martial arts has. There is a fight in a well that has to be seen to be believed. As for Beggar Su’s drunken style, this is some of the best drunken style fighting you’ll see. It stands right next to Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s best versions of the style. Particularly when you see Jay Chou go at it, also playing the Drunken God. The camerawork is beautifully done, and some of the set designs are nothing short of terrific.

Vincent Zhao gives a great, heartfelt performance as a man whose successes create his own downfall. He’s a good man, and it will pain you to see what horrible things happen to him. Andy On is a perfect bastard as Yuan. He’s at once needy like a child and brutally evil at the same time. He even gets to be all creepy Uncle to Little Feng. Gordon Liu was disappointing as he doesn’t do much more than drink, point at Su and laugh. The same goes for Michelle Yeoh, who basically has a walk-on role. What wasn’t disappointing was when David Carradine, that’s right, Qui Chang F***ing Kang shows up as the ringleader for a bunch of overgrown wrestlers who take on Beggar Su. Thankfully Carradine doesn’t try to attempt any martial arts. There isn’t enough choreography in Woo Ping’s Magic Bag of Tricks that could make him look good. Jay Chou is fantastic in his dual roles, and I had no idea his kung-fu was so good.

If there is one drawback it’s the story, primarily toward the end of the film, where the movie goes from being the fun of Iron Monkey to being serious like Jet Li’s Fearless. The main story ends after 90 minutes, but we get 30 minutes of Su being, well, Beggar Su, but it seems as if we’re getting the start–or end–of a different film altogether. Also, his son cries too damn much. I was almost hoping a stray punch, or Venom fist, would knock this kid out just to shut him up.

Despite the nit picky flaws, True Legend is a fun martial arts film that shows that the master himself still has it. He simply needs to do his own stuff from now on. It’s well worth your money to go and see the Master at work.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Woo Ping does some of his best work here, perhaps his best since Fearless. Everyone does a fantastic job, and Jay Chou and Vincent Zhao’s fights are memorable. Smooth and flowing, each fight sings its own song, and it never forgets what’s at stake for the characters.

STUNTWORK: (8) The stunts here are terrific, and the wirework is just astounding, but never gets in the way of the fights themselves.

STAR POWER: (9) Vincent Zhao’s primary work lately has been on TV, and he was the star of Once Upon A Time in China 4 and 5 before Jet returned to the series, but this film shows that Zhao deserves to be a star in his own right. Jay Chou is a revelation here, and Gordon Liu and Michelle Yeoh are always a joy to see. Oh yeah, that Carradine guy is in it too.

FINAL GRADE: (9) This film can stand tall next to any of Woo-Ping’s films. Fun and exciting, you’ll never get bored, and the action never gets stale. Only the last 30 minutes keeps this one from being perfect. We need to get both Jay Chou and Vincent Zhao into more martial arts films…

NEXT: Who is the Dragon Warrior? Why, Kung Fu Panda, that’s who!