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December 2010

True Legend

cast: Man Cheuk Chiu, Zhou Xun, Jay Chou, Andy On, and Michelle Yeoh

director: Yuen Woo-ping

115 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Optimum DVD Region 2

RATING: 7/10
review by Christopher Geary

True Legend

This movie presents the story of Su Can (Man Cheuk Chiu, alias Vincent Zhou, Fist Power), a mythic hero of ancient China beset with overwhelming traumas and some awful tragedy. When his ferociously vengeful step-brother Yuan (Andy On), returns from warmongering, having now grafted plates of armour onto his skin to prevent injury on the battlefield and in kung fu duels, Su Can must confront a powerful killer who boasts the 'five venom fist' ability.

Losing the duel, Su Can is only saved from drowning by his loyal yet doomed wife, Ying (Zhou Xun, Confucius), who single-handedly rescues her injured husband from the river, and hauls him up a mountainside - where kindly recluse, Dr Yu (Michelle Yeoh, bringing effortless grace, charm and wisdom to a clearly underwritten role), treats Su Can's poisoned wounds, but cannot heal his broken spirit.

Embarking on a superhuman training regimen, against the wushu god (Jay Chou, who plays 'Kato' in the forthcoming Green Hornet remake), Su Can finally masters his deficiency in martial arts but apparently loses his very sanity in the process. It's only much later, when our hero acquires the bizarre skills of 'drunken fist' boxing, that Su Can finds a semblance of peace in the world, when he becomes the 'king of beggars' who triumphs over all comers in a crooked fighting tournament - where martial arts icon David Carradine makes a guest appearance, in one his last few screen roles.

While characterisations, emotive performing of the main cast, dramatic tension, and directorial storytelling techniques are perfunctory at best, the many action sequences make up for such faults. True Legend has much less digital artistry than 14 Blades or Goemon, but as wire-fu action spectacle goes it's highly impressive and marginally better than Storm Warriors.

Yuen Woo-ping's return to directing, after several years spent doing combat choreography for several US action movies, proves to have been worth the wait. And he's certainly the right man to helm the film about Marvel's kung fu super-hero, 'The Hands Of Shang-Chi' (due 2011).



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