Without a doubt the most eagerly anticipated flick in
recent HK history, this adaptation of Ma Wing Shing’s
popular comic book Fung Wan is a solidly entertaining,
if somewhat hollow spectacle. Boasting the best special effects
ever seen in a HK flick, this two-hour martial arts
and swordplay extravaganza is basically a Zu: Warriors
for the new millennium, or an HK version of Star
Wars. This is an old-fashioned wuxia reframed with
modern storytelling techniques. Fung Wan manages
to take us to another world, which is one of the things
that movies - when they’re not engaging our hearts and
minds- should do.
Plot: Lord Conquer (Sonny Chiba)
is the leader of the Conqueror’s Clan, and seeks supremacy
in the World of Martial Arts. Prophet Mud Buddha (Lai
Yiu-Cheung) tells Lord Conquer his future prosperity
is dependent on two young children, Wind and Cloud,
and promises to reveal more in ten years time. Conquer
conducts a search for the two children - and in order
to retain them he murders their parents.
Ten years later, the two have
grown into the chief lieutenants of Conqueror’s Clan.
Wind (Ekin Cheng) is a kind warrior who possesses the
powerful “Wind Kicks.” Cloud (Aaron Kwok) is a brooding
introvert whose “Cloud Palms” allow him to utilize liquid
as a weapon. Lord Conquer seeks to find Mud Buddha again
to reveal the second half of his initial prophecy. It’s
only then that Lord Conquer discovers that destiny provides
for Wind and Cloud to make him - and break him.
Conquer pits the two versus
one another via his daughter, Charity (Kristy Yeung),
who just so happens to like both our Canto-pop stars.
But as destiny would have it, Lord Conquer’s plan to
do in his two disciples goes wrong, and before too long
he must contend with both of them.
“Cloud is unpredictable. Wind
is formless.” This line from the film pretty well describes
the acting. Aaron Kwok fares the best, showing intensity
and a physical presence necessary for his role as Cloud.
Ekin Cheng is exceptionally bland - his acting limits
are extremely apparent next to Kwok. The guy just isn’t
a proper wuxia hero. It’s no wonder that Chastity was
fooling around with Cloud behind Wind’s back.
Support is varied, but the
numerous cameos and big-name supporting parts make up
for any fault in the lead casting. Especially notable
are Anthony Wong as Sword Saint, Alex Fong as Whispering
Prince, and Roy Cheung in an against-type role as a
Shaolin monk. Shu Qi shows up as Muse, official love
interest, and she’s as winning as ever. Towering over
everyone is Japanese actor Sonny Chiba (The Street
Fighter), who hams it up relentlessly as the power-mad
Andrew Lau and Manfred Wong
do a decent job of providing summer movie fun. On the
negative side, the plot is terribly convoluted and there
are far too many characters. Knowledge of the comic
book would probably be helpful as much of the film is
guaranteed to lose the casual viewer. The much-vaunted
SFX are impressive by HK standards, though they’re nothing
compared to your average U.S. blockbuster. The film
leans a bit too much on the effects, perhaps expecting
them to carry the film where good choreography usually
should. That approach yields an almost soulless product
- you can practically see the potential for a Happy
This is a comic book though,
and it plays out exactly like one from the stunning
visuals to the frankly hokey dialogue and situations.
Take this major line: "With a heart as clear as
ice, the sky may fall and I won't fear..." That
type of contrived poetic platitude is a perfect example
of what The Storm Riders is all about. It’s a
lot of posturing - all sound and fury, signifying nothing. But it’s pretty cool sound
and fury. (Kozo 1998)