Monday, 23 August 2010

True Legend (2010)

It's been 14 years since fight choreographer extraordinaire Yuen Woo-Ping has taken to the director's chair and True Legend sees Woo-Ping return to form. True Legend is beyond a doubt the most fight packed film I've seen this year. It seems Woo-Ping really wanted to give his audience their money's worth and he certainly delivers.

True Legend concerns Su Can (Vincent Zhao) a high ranking general who is tipped to be Governor of his home province after rescuing a wealthy prince, much to the intense jealousy of his adoptive brother Yuan (Andy On). Five years later Su is ready to open his new martial arts school with his wife Ying (Zhou Xun) and his son. Word arrives that Yuan will be arriving for the opening and Su's father (Leung Kar-Yan also known to hardcore kung fu fans as Beardy) is excited at the prospect of a family reunion. When Yuan arrives it's obvious he is a changed man and he murders Su's father using the forbidden Five Venom Fists technique. Su tries to stop Yuan but is defeated and is forced to go into hiding with his wife. While recovering, Su hones his skills in the martial arts in hopes that he'll be able to rescue his son and re-establish his name.

So the plot is something that's been done a million times over in hundreds of Kung Fu movies but it's never been that big a deal as long as the fighting is convincing and entertaining. Given the talent involved in this film it definitely meets both those demands and surpasses even my already high expectations I had for this particular film. The fights where over seen by director Woo-Ping, who has been involved with martial arts cinema since the early 70's and has worked with top stars such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen and has been involved with big Hollywood productions such as The Matrix Trilogy and the Kill Bill movies. So if anyone was more qualified to put the fights together, he certainly has the credentials.

Woo-Ping gives us a great blend of old-school style choreography with more modern and flashy film techniques but does it in such a way that doesn't distract one from the other. Something most contemporary action films have a nasty habit of doing (See Bourne Trilogy). It also helps that he's jammed in as many fights as he possibly could, it's a safe assumption that you'll be waiting at least no longer then ten minutes before you get to the next action and/or obligatory training sequence. Said training scenes are punctuated by nice supporting roles from Gordon Liu (Pai Mei from Kill Bill Vol. 2) and Jay Chou (Star of the upcoming Green Hornet) who provide our intrepid hero with the motivation to push his skills as a martial arts fighter. It's interesting as it was these particular scenes that were shown in 3D during the film's theatrical run in Hong Kong and it's pretty obvious given how they were filmed and placement of the visual effects but from what I've read the 3D was pretty underwhelming but it's nice to see a veteran such as Woo-Ping experimenting with the technology.

Moving from the top notch action onto the not so bad acting. Leading man Vincent Zhao does a decent job as Beggar Su, while he's certainly not the strongest of actors, he has certainly improved from his embarrassing face pulling he committed in The Blade 15 years earlier. Then again, he has had a long time to hone his craft as he's a popular TV actor in his native China. Zhou Xun by far gives the film's strongest performance, while her character doesn't develop any further then wall flower and damsel in distress, she gives it her all and makes Ying quite a sympathetic character. Villain Andy On, who's on-screen performances have been a bit of a mixed bag ever since he started his film career is surprisingly good, he gives the right level of menace while also giving him a touch of emotion and turns Yuan from stock villain to a man who wants to be ruthless but doesn't want to hurt his family, at least for the most part.

True Legend is one of the most fast paced, action packed and definitely must see martial arts films of 2010 as it offers a great Shaw Brothers vibe while also being able to stand head and shoulders above the recent efforts of a certain Mr. Donnie Yen, who's recent films seem to garner a lot of attention. Go buy the DVD or wait for the Blu-Ray but if you've yet to see this or if this review has convinced you to then what are you waiting for?


  1. "So the plot is something that's been done a million times over in hundreds of Kung Fu movies but it's never been that big a deal as long as the fighting is convincing and entertaining."

    This is SO true. I agree with you 100%

  2. I wasn't sold enough to buy the DVD before but I am now. Thanks for the write up!