True Legend / 苏乞儿 -- Chinese poster (Source: Filmovonline.net)
“True Legend”（2010）– Review by Zuo Shou 左手
Directed by Yuen Woo-ping
Starring: Chiu Man-Cheuk [Vincent Zhao], Zhou Xun, Andy On
Review of Mandarin, English-subtitled 2-D version seen in 2010
Releasing a review now, as the film currently has a limited release in the US.
“True Legend”, I’m sorry to report, is a true disappointment. This film was a box-office flop in China, and even its classy bilingual website is now defunct as the film is released in North America.
Sadly, this film held multiple potentials that it just couldn’t fulfill. Reknowned martial arts director Yuen Woo-ping was returning to the “Drunken Fist” style that was so iconic a few decades back in his legendary “Drunken Master” collaboration with young Jackie Chan. Vincent Zhao was primed for a comeback. David Carradine is seen in his final role (ok, maybe not too much promise in that). There’s cameos by an array of martial arts film icons. The story isbased on a colorful legend of an impoverished martial arts master, perhaps empowering in a time of global impoverishment when the poor have hardly been more invisible. And 3-D martial arts!
Well, after this film’s release lets just say Steven Chow’s comical, Kurosawan assaying of the Su Qi-er legend “King of Beggars” is in no danger of losing its ranking as the top cinematic take on the subject.
Critics, in their enthusiasm to review this one, are overlooking that Yuen Woo-ping is just the director, not the action director here. That should be enough to raise qualifiers, as his directorial efforts have been a decided mixed bag and sometimes dilutes his martial-arts-choreographing strength. There are 2 action sequences that undoubtedly satisfy – one rolling on the edge of a waterfall and a (literally) ripping 2nd act chain-wrapped-fist-in-the-face brawl that still ends too abruptly – but in my opinion they don’t make it a good film.
Still from "True Legend" w/ Andy On, Vincent Zhao (M1905.com / CRIEnglish.com)
The film’s major fault here is in the screenplay, which takes risks required to juice up the the martial arts film genre (mainly in a conceptually interesting, if cinematically flat, extended sequence dramatizing the internal psychic struggle that great talents and / or substance abusers could go through). Yuen Woo-ping does seem to have some noble conceptual intent involving the highs and lows of seeking martial arts perfection. But while cheer-worthy, these risks undo themselves in a progressively deflating sequence of events that approaches dramatic absolute zero in a Heilongjiang East-West battle of no apparent significance and which is lamer than those seen in any number of recent productions (the Ip Man films, for instance) which tend to wind up in an “international” martial arts arena. Continue reading