FANTASTIC FEST 2010
By Dave Campbell | October 1, 2010
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Writer: To Chi-Long
Starring: Vincent Zhao, Zhou Xun, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, David Carradine, Gordon Liu
True Legend takes place in 1861. General Su Can (Vincent Zhao) of the Imperial Chinese Army has just completed another successful mission, and given the honor to to retire from active duty and govern the province of his birth, Hu Bei. But Su has aspirations of completing his Wushu mastery and leading a school that he will build. Su suggests that his adopted brother Yuan (Andy On) take on the position of Governor of Hu Bei so he can devote his life to his family and teaching Wushu.
Five years later as Su is in preparation to open his Wushu academy, his adopted brother Yuan (now pale and evil) beheads their father. This is where it gets a little Jerry Springer-ish — Yuan and Ying (Zhou Xun) (Yuan’s blood sister who is also now Su’s wife who is is also her adopted brother) were adopted by Su’s dad who killed their dad for embracing the evil Wushu practice of Five Venom Fists. Think of it as him fully embracing the powers of the dark side (Star Wars).
Su is nearly killed himself after coming to avenge his fathers death, and only escapes Yuan’s Venom powers by falling into a raging waterfall with Ying. Their son Little Feng is left behind to now be looked after by his crazy evil uncle so Su can return to health and return for revenge. Then the story kind of goes in several directions. Su “meets” the God of Wushu, who kicks his ass on a regular basis, he battles Yuan in the middle of the film, and then becomes some kind of homeless drunken master for the last third of this anticlimactic film.
True Legend is actually two movies (Five Deadly Venoms and Drunken Master) melded together with an additional third story that attempts to be a transitional bridge. The problem is that these “so called transitional bridges” don’t meet up in any way shape or form. I love the visual and artistic qualities to this film. The design aspects in the film are amazing. Each shot is breathtakingly beautiful due to the gorgeous costumes, impeccable sets and overall epic scope of locations. The fight choreography and action is near flawless if you look past some eventual rough CG moments. However, the schizophrenic plot and mood to the film are all over the place and make it an extremely difficult film to digest.
I know that I’m probably going to lose some readers over this next comment, but I’m not the biggest fan of Hong Kong cinema. I personally prefer story structure and acting ability to action and choreography. That being said, director Yuen Woo-Ping is brilliant at what he does best as action choreographer / fight advisor, which is represented in films like The Matrix trillogy, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and both volumes of Kill Bill.