Once Upon a Time in China and America (1997)

Posted in Reviews by - February 13, 2021
Once Upon a Time in China and America (1997)

With Jet Li and Tsui Hark back behind the franchise, you would be right to expect more from this lukewarm offering. Filmed in the USA, there is a clear Hollywood incentive behind the production, and under Sammo Hung‘s direction, the ride is a lot quicker and quirkier than the original trilogy. It’s a film of two halves: the first section sees an amnesiac Wong Fei-hung being adopted by a tribe of Native Americans; the second half is a far more nationalistic tale about Wong’s newly created American-based Po Chi Lam being threatened by bandits. Highlights include a knockabout with Hung Yan-yan (Jet’s stunt double from the original series) who fights like Wong’s previous adversaries to help jog his memory, and a dusty showdown finale built like a Sergio Leone sequence in which cowboy Joseph Sayah uses his sharpened spurs to disturb Wong’s flying fists. It’s occasionally diverting, but if you’re expecting anything near the magnitude of the first three films then you will feel quite deflated.

AKA: Once Upon a Time in China VI.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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