Yuen Woo-Ping, martial arts choreographer extraordinaire, directs True Legend, a movie that showcases and benefits from Yuen’s reputation for creating ridiculously complex fight scenes.
With a name like True Legend, I expected something epic and grandiose with a lot of brilliantly crafted action. I was persuaded to watch the movie based on reviews, and now it’s my turn to give an opinion — is this movie legendary or imposter?
General Su Can (Man Cheuk Chiu), a Qing Dynasty warrior, doesn’t mess around. When he’s not saving political figures or rejecting promotions, he’s taking care of his family.
He’s the kind of guy others look up to — men want to be him, and women want to be with him.
It’s enough to make Yuan Lie (Andy On), his adopted brother turned rival, become a literal monster.
While Su prepares to celebrate his father’s birthday, Yuan returns home to enact revenge because it turns out that Yuan’s real father, who was an evil practitioner of the martial arts technique The Five Venoms, was killed by Su’s father.
Su’s family is split apart as Yuan emerges victorious from a battle that sends Su and his wife downriver and defeated. Yuan takes Su’s son away, leaving the broken Su with a mission to fulfill.
Despite making a grand effort, True Legend would have been more worthy of its title if it didn’t feel the need to drown in its melodrama. The film tries to find its emotional center, but they feel forced and contrived. When Su crumbles under the pressure of having to recuperate and retrain, the moment feels sappy. While it’s refreshing to see heroes give in to showing emotion, True Legend seems to take itself too seriously.
On the flip side, the action scenes are typical of what one would expect from Yuen, excellent and amazing. But there’s also a sense of restraint — as if something were holding the sequences from going above and beyond.
While it seems like these characters are actually hitting each other, there’s something left to be desired. Maybe it’s due to the fact that the action seems too realistic and down to earth for a movie with fantastic reality-stretching elements.
This is, after all, a movie whose main villain has actually stitched armor onto himself.
And then there’s the second act — which seems like another movie altogether. Su, having gone insane, still has his son, but they are homeless. It takes another battle to put Su back on the right track, but this portion of the movie isn’t as good as the first.
True Legend has lofty goals, but it fails to hold up its emotional baggage.
A reworked version that leaves out the second half, focusing and fleshing out the first half with a bit of editing would make for a nice director’s cut.
True Legend (2010)
Directed by: Yuen Woo-Ping
Screenplay by: Christine To
Starring: Vincent Zhao, Xun Zhou, Andy On, Xiaodong Guo, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, David Carradine, Cung Le, Gordon Liu, Luxia Jiang
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