Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Tale in Two Halves

Director: Woo-ping Yuen
Writer: Chi-long To
Starring: Man Cheuk Chiu, Michelle Yeoh, David Carradine
2010 | China | R | 115 mins

True Legend is the story Su Qi-Er (Man Cheuk Chiu), a Qing dynasty general who retires from his position so that he can raise his family and start his own martial arts school. When his wife's (Xun Zhou) evil brother Yuan Lie (Andy On) returns to avenge the death of his father Su's life is disrupted as not only is his own father killed, but his son is kidnapped and he is left seriously injured. Training in the ways of Drunken Boxing, Su believes he is being trained by The God of Wushu and the Old Sage themselves, however his wife thinks he may just being going mad, but he vows to be able to stand up to Yuan Lie's perfected Five Venom Fists and save their son.

Oh, but this is only the first two-thirds of the movie. After rescuing his son, but losing his wife, Su now becomes a drunken beggar who travels from town to town with his son only in search for a jug of wine that taste's like his late wife's own recipe. When he enters a town where an arena is pitting anyone willing to showcase their martial arts skills to the death, Su challenges a group of Russian brutes commanded by the sinister Killer Anton (David Carradine) after a friend is almost killed in the arena. This no-holds-barred, no rules, weapons-allowed fight may prove difficult as Su drunkenly boxes his way through towering brutes with knives and names like Molotov. But this is a legend and the rise of the "King of Beggars".

True Legend, not based on a true legend, was promoted as the first Chinese 3-D film. And again, this proves to be a gimmick and a failure. Being director Woo-ping Yuen's first film since 1996 really shows as direction is highly unfocused and the storytelling is considerably weak. Far from his days at creating entertaining martial arts fare such as Drunken Master, Iron Monkey, and Magnificent Butcher (which he co-directed with martial arts choreography legend Sammo Hung) Woo-ping Yuen relies heavily on wire-work and CGI.

Running just under two hours, True Legend truly falters in its story structure and goes on for far too long. Cramming two different tales through one legend severely halts the flow of the film and the two halves, aside from their two main characters, never mesh. Separated via animated title sequences this juxtaposes the viewer and the tone of each shifts considerably. Being David Carradine's last film this is not so much a swan song or tribute to his days of Kung Fu and Circle of Iron as his presence in the film is short lived and forgettable. True Legend is ultimately boring and disjointed which shatters any fun or entertainment the martial arts segments may have provided. A true disappointment.

All contents copyright 2011 Tyler Baptist

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