Fantastic Fest 2010 Review: TRUE LEGEND
Editor's note: The review was originally posted on September 26, 2010 as a Fantastic Fest review. TRUE LEGEND opens today (5/13) in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, and Honolulu.
Writer: Chi-long To
Director: Yuen Woo-ping
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Xun Zhou, Man Cheuk Chiu
In Yuen Woo-ping’s first directorial effort in 14 years, he has returned to some of his original drunken (style) roots. The director that first became a household name in America with his fight choreography work on THE MATRIX and KILL BILL franchises, has made many a martial arts fanboy salivate at the thought of seeing a new film that comes directly from his visionary martial arts choreography roots. The end result is a visually stunning yet heartwarming tale of a troubled man, with a family to live for, and a promise to always keep that family together.
TRUE LEGEND tells the story of Su Can, a soldier for the Qing Dynasty, a man who ends up leading a very legendary life. Su Can fights along side his adopted brother Yuan Ying. Together they have fought and won many battles for the Qing Dynasty, and when the time comes to be rewarded, Su allows Yuan to receive a promotion that was given to him so that he can seek the life he truly wants to lead. He longs for a peaceful life with his family and desires to raise children with his wife Yu Ying (Michelle Yeoh), who is the sister of Su’s adopted brother, Yuan.
All is seemingly well, and Yuan wishes Su good luck on his journey. However, Su’s peaceful life is shattered when his brother, who has become an immensely powerful governor, seeks revenge on the man who killed his biological father. Unfortunately, the target of this vengeance is the same man who took Su and his sister in and raised them as if they were his own. The inevitable battle between Su and Yuan takes place on a very flimsy looking pier overlooking an amazing waterfall (one of the most unique-looking locations you will ever see an epic battle take place). In this battle, Su is tossed over the edge and into the waterfall and Yu dives over to try and save him, leaving their five year old son Little Feng behind who is left to be raised by Yuan. Upon recovery, Su trains to regain his strength and bring back their son because he made a promise to his wife that they're family would always remain together.
The fighting in this movie is expected to be spectacular and it does not disappoint. Yuen Woo-ping uses a unique blend of practical fighting with some wire-fighting, a style that also made him popular with films like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. He also blends a very small amount of CG into some of the fight scenes. It's never too much to distract from the amazing fighting taking place on screen. The highlight of any Yuen-Woo Ping film is going to be the showcasing of the fighting techniques, and the wire work or CG never take away from that. The biggest strength of this film lies in the performance of Michelle Yeoh. She keeps this family together. She won't crack under pressure, and is able to keep this family stable and a functioning unit. Her interactions with the boy playing her son are some of the more genuinely heart string tugging moments of the film. Her importance to this family is showcased just after the second act ends, and this is where the legend of Su Can truly begins.
Viewers overall opinions of the film may be negatively swayed by the unusual third act of this film, but it is important to remember that this story is called TRUE LEGEND for a reason. The things that happen in the first two acts lay the groundwork for the rest of this character's life and the status of his family. As a martial arts action film, this is absolutely on par with the rest of Yuen Woo-ping’s resume of great films, however, this one is without doubt one of the more heartwarming stories. A story about a soldiers journey, and his commitment to his family.