Posted in Fantasia 2011, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals, Reviews

Fantasia 2011: Review of True Legend

True Legend (2010)
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping, Screenplay: To Chi-Long
Cast: Vincent Zhao, Zhou Xun, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, David Carradine

The aptly named “True Legend” is a WuXia movie directed by one of the greatest martial arts choreographers of our time.  The movie starts off with an very nice and artistic animated sequence which looked like shadow puppets painted with water colours.  Once that’s over we immediately jump into the action where the main character General Su Chan (Vincent Zhao) and fellow general Yuan Lie  (Andy On) and their soldiers are sneaking into an enemy’s hideout to rescue a prince.  They’re discovered and a massive fight ensues with swords clashing and many men falling into the wide bottomless pit (a staple decorative feature of the bad guy hideout).

This is just the setup for the upcoming conflict between General Su and Yuan.  Setup might be a generous word because after fast-forwarding five years we the audience suddenly discover that Yuan is out for revenge with a revelation that comes out of nowhere.  Not that plot is important in this type of movie but I won’t reveal much more other than Su goes crazy for a bit by fighting Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou (in a cheese-tasitc looking outfit) before taking on Yuan in an intense final showdown.  The movie doesn’t end here as another chapter begins with Su becoming a booze craving homeless man thus earning his nickname of Beggar Su before finally facing off against large, evil Russian wrestlers (which reminds one too much of Jet Li’s movie Fearless).

The sound effects in this movie were very intense and you almost felt every pounding punch and kick with each resounding thud.  This added greatly to the movie’s already brutal looking fights with slow-motion employed for those particularly hard hits to the face.  The strongest aspect of the one-on-one fights was that they go back and forth without one fighter clearly dominating the whole time.   Too often in martial arts movies, the hero is depicted as a far superior fighter than everybody else but in this movie Su, although obviously proficient, does not win all his fights.

If you like your martial arts amped up with special effects and wire-fu then you’ll enjoy the fights in the movie, especially the fights between Su & Yuan.  Sometimes it gets a bit too exaggerated like a character being able to survive a piledriver and the random drunken break dancing.  The final act comes off as being from a different movie as it appears to be more grounded in reality but with Su still possessing his fantasy-like martial arts moves.   These final action scenes against Russian wrestlers also had too many cuts for my liking.  Zhou Xun who acts as Su’s wife is more than the perfunctory female character showing strength and bravery in a genre where women are barely more visible than background scenery.  If you don’t think too much about the plot, a good time can be had with this movie.  Too bad for that 3rd act though.

The next fantasia screening is on Tuesday, July 26 at 3pm in JA deSeve.

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Author:

Longtime fan of East Asian films. Former "movie reporter" on the music radio show / podcast "Beats From The East" broadcasted on Concordia University's CJLO 1690AM radio station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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