True Legend (2010)

Posted in Reviews by - December 08, 2013
True Legend (2010)

All-star fight film from Yuen Woo-ping after over a decade away from the director’s chair. Here, he fills in the back story of street-bound alcoholic pensioner Beggar So (or ‘Sam the Seed’ Su Can from Drunken Master) with a self-referential but no less gratifying Fearless-like sense of romanticism. The character was made famous by Woo-ping’s own father, Simon Yuen, in his very first films. Here, his formative years are represented by Vincent Zhao.

The film is rife with great visual effects – some scenes are filmed in 3D – and surprising cameos: Gordon Liu as the white brow monk; Leung Kar-yan as Su’s father; Michelle Yeoh as a saintly mountain hippy; and David Carradine as a turn of the century circus leader with a troop of brutish wrestlers in one of his final film appearances. The film was considered something of a failure when released, and although it does resolve in a well-worn tournament conceit pitting Chinese fighters against westerners (all too familiar), everything up to that point is very good.

Su Can starts as a promising general who forgoes a military life to study wushu and start a family with his wife Ying (Zhou Xun), leaving his brother-in-law to take his place as governor. Flash forward a few years and Governor Yuan (Andy On) has become a ghost-like monster powered up on poisonous beetle juice and an evil master of the forbidden Five Venoms Fist, who kills his own stepdad and steals Su’s wife and child. Su comes to the rescue, only to be washed up in the mountainous Chinese outback. This middle part of the film is great, as Su and Ying’s relationship strains under his impassioned training regime and booze sessions, where he hallucinates a stunning CGI backdrop of giant statues to learn the Great Levitating Skill from the God of Wushu (Jay Chou).

The final third of the film, where Su and his son end up destitute on the streets of colonised Hong Kong, slightly over-eggs the pudding. But at least this last section adds clarity to one of the most enduring characters in kung fu movie history.

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