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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

 True Legend

For the viewer thirsting for old school Shaw Brothers kung fu with a dash of vintage 90s Tsui Hark-style action, Yuen Woo-Ping’s True Legend is like an oasis in the desert. There’s only one problem — Hong Kong martial arts film fans are so parched that there’s a danger of lapping it all up unquestionably, despite the fact that the last 1/4 of the movie is complete backwash.

Let me explain: True Legend has a structural problem. If you don’t want to know the vague outline of the major story points, skip past the following list.

Still with me? Okay. You can break the story beats down like this:

1) The protagonist, Su Can (Vincent Zhao Wen-Zhou), establishes himself in the first act as a hero, only to be betrayed by his adopted brother, Yuan (Andy On).

2) With his lovely wife (Zhou Xun) beside him, the protagonist then proceeds to train in exile to avenge his father and save his kidnapped son.

3) The protagonist avenges his father and saves his kidnapped son.

End of story, right? Not so fast, my friend. True Legend has other ideas. A tragic event befalls the protagonist, causing him to spiral out of control and become a complete and utter lush.

And with that turn of events, the film presents a new problem to be solved. Certainly, our hero needs to “snap out of it” and hone his drunken boxing skills to become the legendary martial artists Beggar Su, but how? Fighting foreigners! Now where have we seen that before? *cough* Fearless *cough*

Despite the fact that the filmmakers use a character introduced in the first act to help create a story bridge to the events of the final act, the finale seems really incongruous with what came before. But as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.

The presence of Michelle Yeoh is nice, even though neither she nor fellow cameo actor Gordon Liu do much of anything.

Jay Chou

Singer, actor, director, and…costume designer?

As evidenced by the above picture, Jay Chou looks absolutely ridiculous as the God of Wushu. Still, I appreciate that the movie actually has an explanation for it, which softens my initial feeling that a real martial artist should’ve been cast in the role.

In any event, I enjoyed True Legend, despite its last act problems.

It’s too bad this film didn’t do that well at the box office. I’d love a True Legend series, which focused on a different martial arts icon — all of whom would be played by Zhao Wen-Zhou — in each new installment. Who wouldn’t check out True Legend 2: Fong Sai-Yuk or True Legend 3: Wong Fei-Hung? Just give those “Evil Foreigners” a break when it comes to casting each movie’s “last boss,” all right?

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