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Genre: Martial Arts
Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Cast: Vincent Zhao Wen Zhuo, Zhou Xun, Michelle Yeoh, Jay Chou, Gordon Liu, Andy On, Guo Xiao Dong, Feng Xiao Gang, Cung Le
RunTime: 1 hr 55 mins
Released By: GV & Scorpio East Pictures
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://www.yuenwooping-truelegend.com/index_en.html

Opening Day: 11 February 2010


True Legend is the extraordinary journey of a man - a martial arts hero - whose greatest dream is to create a unique school of martial arts for the world to follow.

All his life, Su Can has been pursuing the summit in martial arts. There are two things he holds dearest to his heart – the dream of creating a unique kind of martial arts that will pass on to generations; and his beloved wife. Su has a happy family and his wife is the joy of his life. But owing to a turn of fate and Su’s own stubbornness, he loses his wife and his family is destroyed.

After losing his wife, Su cannot live with himself and collapses totally. He is drunk all the time and becomes a crazy beggar in everyone’s eyes. Everyday, his young son ties him with a piece of rope and leads him through the streets, greeted by people’s curious and disdainful gazes.

But all this time during his spiritual exile, his dream for the highest peak in martial arts is still alive. In his madness, Su continues his practice, to perfect his skills and fists.

Then, the Heilongjiang Province where Su resides is under foreigners’ rule. One day a crisis happens that threatens the life of his young son – the only person Su still cares about and his last bit of human hope. At the critical moment, the flame of life is re-ignited in Su. He lets out the utmost strength that has lay dormant in him during all his devastated time, and it becomes the strongest school of fists that the martial arts world has ever known.

Movie Review:

Master action choreographer Yuen Woo Ping returns to the directing chair after a hiatus of more than a decade. It seems that Yuen has a penchant for one of the Ten Tigers of Canton, Su Can or Su Qi Er that with "True Legend", it marks the maestro’s second attempt in bringing the legendary folk hero to the big screen.

Not to be confused with Yuen’s 1993 version with starred Donnie Yen in the lead role or Stephen Chow’s amusing "King of Beggars", this Christine To’s (Fearless) adaptation involves Su Can (Vincent Zhao Wen Zhuo) as a successful bodyguard working for the Royal family. But the man yearns to leave the army in pursuit of something he loves rather than a high post with the government and in the true spirit of a martial-arts practitioner, Can hopes to impart his skills to others and also live in peace with his wife, Yuan Ying (Zhou Xun) and son. But his happiness is short-lived when Ying’s brother, Yuan Lie (Andy On) returns to avenge his father’s who was killed by Can’s father 18 years ago, an act that shattered the life of Can forever.

Yuen no doubt knew where his bread-and-butter lies and given his excellent repertoire for the past decades and involvement in Hollywood productions such as "The Matrix" and "Kill Bill", you can rest assured Yuen is going to kick some serious ass in True Legend. Sadly on the other hand when it comes to story-telling, Yuen seems to be at a great loss. To be fair, part of the problem lies in the 'go-through-the-motion' script by Christine To. Man-beaten-down, Man-mourn-the-loss-of-his-skill, Man-regains-and-fights, Man-wins and so on and forth. The story flows jarringly from one act to another without much depth and it’s especially true in the last act.

Without investing much effort in creating his characters, Yuan Lie for example remains a caricature, paper-thin villain while Su Can suffers as a mystic figure that borders between a genius martial-arts artiste and a depression figure desperately in need of psychiatric help. Unlike the recent "Ip-Man" and Tsui Hark’s "Once Upon A Time In China", where the audience is heavily invested with the protagonists, "True Legend" lacks this magical touch that makes the movie works as the various characters seem very far detached and even mythical in some sense.

Vincent Zhao (Once Upon A Time in China IV) who has seen his star power declined over the years surprisingly puts in an emotional performance that I should say is on par with Jet Li in "Fearless". With "True Legend", we get to hear Zhao in his own voice at last after so many years of horrid dubbing. His chemistry with Zhou Xun perhaps is one of the factors that salvaged the filmsy plotting as well. The underrated Andy On (Invisible Target) finally has the chance to stand out with his villainous character but like I say it’s pathetically squandered away by To’s sloppy scribing. After her much-hyped deleted scene in "Fearless", Michelle Yeoh cameos as Physician Yu who saved Can after his near-death battle with Lie in addition the late David Carradine who appears towards the end. The star that has everyone clamoring for his attention nowadays is none other than Jay Chou. Appearing as a figment of Can’s imagination, Chou is in purely for the eye candy or comic relief depending how you see it as he looks awkwardly out-of-place in the whole production.

Of course, "True Legend" never disappoints when it comes to the whole action arena. From the opening sequence to Can’s sparring with Lie to the finale with the tournament fighters, Yuen proved he is still at the top of his game. The 'Five-Fingers Venom Fist' employed by Lie in particular brings back memories to the grand old days of Shaw martial-art classics, it’s a pity Can’s supposedly trademark Drunken Fist wasn’t elaborate that greatly in this aspect. Lastly one other minor gripe is the movie lacks a distinct fight that distinguished one from another if you take into account Yuen’s outstanding past works including "The Tai-Chi Master" and "Iron Monkey".

In conclusion, "True Legend" action sequences while never ground-breaking once again established Yuen as the best wire-fu, martial-arts choreographer of all time. So if you are in for some exhilarating action mood, you won’t regret seeing Vincent Zhao and Andy On breaking each other’s bones. "True Legend" is certainly not much of a movie about the biopic of Su Can or even the philosophy behind the drunken fist, ultimately it’s just a handsomely produced production that only serves to entertain the masses.

Movie Rating:

(Rich on the action but unfortunately letdown by the subpar storyline)

Review by Linus Tee


. Ip Man (2008)

. The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

. Fearless (2006)

. Iron Monkey DVD (1992)

. Fearless [Blu-ray] (2010)


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