True Legend, the title of the new martial arts import from Indomina Releasing, could just as easily be applied to director Yuen Woo Ping. Arguably the greatest action director working today, Yuen boasts a four-decade filmography that includes Drunken Master, Iron Monkey, The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill and Once Upon a Time in China 1 and 2. In short, Yuen Woo Ping has been the mastermind behind some of the best kung fu sequences ever committed to celluloid.
With True Legend, Yuen returns to the director's chair for the first time since 1996's Iron Monkey 2. The advent of cheap visual effects and quick editing have altered the kung fu landscape over the past 15 years, making it so that any pop idol with a fan base can appear to go toe to toe with martial arts legends like Jackie Chan or Jet Li. Thankfully, True Legend doesn't rely too heavily on visual effects to create kung fu performances. Here, the visual effects are used only as a means of enhancing the performance of actors who are already true martial artists.
Vincent Zhao (Fong Sai Yuk) plays Su Can, the family man who seeks perfection in the martial arts world. When his jealous brother (the electric Andy On) returns home with the knowledge of the poisonous Five Venom Fist, he nearly kills Su and his dream of becoming a brilliant kung fu practitioner. Aided by the God of Wushu (Jay Chou), Su trains in secret and discovers an unbeatable technique: the Drunken Fist.
When the plot veers away from the bone-crunching fight action and settles into the melodrama of Su's life in exile, the story suffers. Thirty minutes of judicious editing would have helped the pacing in the second, third and what can really only be described as the fourth act -- mostly because the fight scenes in the film are so epic. Particularly the Drunken Fist sequences, which feature unexpected and inspired fight choreography.
Michelle Yeoh (Wing Chun, Police Story 3: Supercop) and Gordon Liu, (Kill Bill, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin), two kung fu legends in their own right, have all-too-brief cameos. Both are excellent in the film, but fans hoping to see either star do much in the way of action will be disappointed. Another legend of Kung Fu, the late David Carradine (Kill Bill) turns in a fun, teeth-gnashing performance as an American villain who runs a gambling house.
Overall, True Legend packs enough of a kung fu punch to satisfy even the most discerning fan of the genre and hopefully, the film's appearance in theaters will signal a return of even more kung fu imports to America.
True Legend is in theaters now.