The story follows a pair of brothers, Yi and Er at an elite small town martial arts school where their father, Li Hui is a teacher. Together with their five best friends they form a gang, ‘Jinwunmen’, swearing allegiance to each other and to be the best. 10 years later in their graduation year with the provincial team selection looming, their lives take an unexpected turn when they cross roads with Ke Le and foil a kidnapping attempt. Faced with a real enemy out to kill them, they have to turn to their athletic abilities into real combat.
Sammo Hung may headline this HK-China co-production but it is its young stars that one suspects this movie is made for. Indeed, the cast of mostly newcomers are real martial arts students in their own right and boy, does it show. They can punch, they can kick, they can fight with a sword and/or a spear, and most of all, they can fly up into the air without any wirework.
And the best part about it all- they look like they are still in their teens, or barely out of it. One can only stare in amazement at the stunts that these young stars can perform on their own, and wonder just how much practice they must have put in, and since what age, in order to do what you see them do on screen.
If you think that Wushu: The Young Generation feels like a documentary, it certainly does. As an excuse for them to showcase their skills, there’s a martial arts competition that will decide the best among them who will go on to represent their school at the national championships. Hence, almost a good half of the movie sees them displaying their talents on the mat. And that’s definitely the better half.
The other half involves a throwaway plot detailing how Li Hui’s (Sammo Hung) two sons, Li Yi and Li Er (yes, this is as unimaginative as it gets) meet three other kids and start a secret club called “Jin Wu Men”- the Jin meaning ‘gold’ here. The five begin their quest for justice when they chance upon a kidnapping scheme run by a former Wushu champion, He Le, also incidentally Li Hui’s former student. Of course you can probably guess who will eventually save the day.
Undoubtedly, it is as predictable as it can get. The good guys- the Jin Wu Men- remain the good guys and the bad guys- He Le and gang- remain the bad guys. There are no shades of grey- who’s good is good through and through, and who’s bad is thoroughly bad. Like I said, neither the story nor its characters are anything more than one-dimensional and the result is unfortunately painfully obvious here.
It doesn’t help that the cast, minus Sammo Hung, may be pros at their wushu, but definitely novices in the acting department. Nevertheless what they lack in competence, they make up for in wide-eyed earnestness. Just as inexperienced it seems is director Antony Szeto whose overly liberal use of split screens, slow motion and sound effects threaten to derail what rawness and realism this movie rightfully possesses.
But if you lower your expectations, you’ll still be able to enjoy this quite a fair bit. Like I said, this is all about its young stars. And what bright young martial arts stars they are. Alas one ponders whether the future of these talents will be as what is portrayed in this movie- stunt coordinators or stuntmen whose only recognition are the closing credits at the end of each film that most people conveniently ignore.
There’s a Photo Gallery with a couple of stills from the movie. Nothing much interesting though.
Picture is clear and sharp enough and the Dolby 2.0 audio will do just fine as well. One minor gripe is that the picture is presented in the wrong aspect ratio so if you’re watching it on a standard 4 x 3 TV, you have to activate your TV set’s widescreen function (if there’s one) to see it properly.
Review by Gabriel Chong