Famed martial arts action choreographer Woo-ping Yuen has returned to the directors chair after fifteen years of focusing on doing what he does best, probably better than anybody ever in the history everythingÖ choreograph action. In a list of things that I would not miss, number one would be the birth of my son with this event at the very least making it into the top ten. Interestingly enough the analogies do not stop there because my son has recently become a teenage boy and he is well on his way to disappointing his father after showing some early promise. ĎTrue Legendí also showed some glorious early promise before ultimately disappointing me. Well, the final credits havenít rolled on my son yet so he still has a chance, not so much for ĎTrue Legendí.
The prince is in danger and is moments away from being executed by some Mongolian barbarians. Fortunately for this prince, brave and loyal General Su (Vincent Zhao) and his loyal squad of soldiers are moments away and after one of the many ridiculously spectacular fight sequences in this movie, the prince is saved even though it looked like the General may have perished in the battle.
At least that what his adopted brother and fellow soldier Yuan (Andy On) was hoping. Seriously. The Prince was like ĎWhereís the General?í and Yuan was like ĎOh, heís dead chiefÖ for real. Didnít make ití. Iím paraphrasing of course. Naturally Su was standing behind him a few seconds later, receiving the blessings of the prince and garnering political clout. But General Su doesnít want any of that. In fact he recommends that the completely hateful Yuan gets this gig, note that Su absolutely cherishes this hateful step brother of his, with Suís immediate plans being retiring from the army and returning home to his lovely wife Ying (Xun Zhou), who happens to be Yuanís blood sister, to raise a family and master his Wushu.
Years later things are going exactly as Su had planned as his skills are razor sharp, his love for his woman is strong and he has a precocious young son. Life is good. At least until Suís old man (Leung-ka Yan) informs the family that Governor Yuan is paying a visit. Now everybodyís asshole becomes diamond creation tight upon hearing Yuan is coming home, including his sister, but Su is all happy. Yuan has plenty of perceived reasons to hate folks, such as his father being killed by Suís old man, even though it
was for a good reason, and he also hates Su for marrying his sister. Itís okay to love your sister, but itís not okay to love your sister, know what Iím saying? Just so you know after Yuan glides into town, looking like cold death, and does what he does, Su isnít happy anymore, in fact heís down right miserable.
Here goes Suís situation. He is exiled, sickly, damaged and poisoned after Yuan completely kicks his ass. He has his wife by his side but Yuan has his son, thinking both his sister and Su to be dead. Su has become a wino. Su is pathetic. He needs to reunite his family but he needs to get off the juice first, heal himself, and takes his art to another level. You know these things are going to happen. You know itís going to come down to a battle between two angry dudes with mad skills with lives in the balance. What you donít know is that after that awesome climax thereís still thirty five minutes worth of movie to sift through and thatís where me and ĎTrue Legendí had some philosophical differences.
Thereís a scene in this movie where Andy Onís character clenches his fist, veins turning dark and hands turning black causing the old man to exclaim in terror ĎFive Venom Fists!í Iím thinking to myself, joyfully, that Woo-ping is going old school with new technology on us, only to have this thought cemented when Yuan orders the Iron Twins to Attack! Right about now ĎTrue Legendí is a dream come true. An old school kung fu flick directed by Woo-ping Yuen with all the new fangled wire fu and CGI action that you can shake a stick at, and it doesnít disappoint. No, Vincent Zhao isnít much of an actor but thatís what they hired Xun Zhou for and she did what she was supposed to do, add some heart to Vincent Zhaoís brawn and athletic ability to give us something to root for. Andy Onís Yuan made for one of the more creepier villains that you will run into and was almost completely devoid of any socially redeeming value, just like we like our villains. The various little boys that played the son got a little irritating since all the kids did was whine and cry and Jay Chou playing both the white haired God of Wushu and the Sage Old man was mighty silly, but even that was a glorious throwback reference.
With all of this working for ĎTrue Legendí, what in the world could possibly go wrong? A third act that really felt like it belonged in another movie, thatís what. Or more accurately this was the second third act because the first third act seemed to go just fine. Itís not often that you get a movie with a second final act, and now we know why. If our filmmakers had simply decided to end this movie after the big fight between our recognized protagonist and antagonist, like these things tend to go, and then wrap it upÖ all is well and Iím spending what little money I do have to send roses to Hong Kong. This didnít happen. We arenít going to get into this second third act too much, other than to mention the late David Carradine shows up in it, but for me, unfortunately it changed the movie.
Is ĎTrue Legendí still worth seeing? Of course it is. So much of this movie is just too good and too wonderful to even thinking about passing on. But if it werenít for that second final act I probably wouldíve opened this little article with the words Best. Movie. Ever. Fully recognizing that there about twenty five or so ĎBest Movies Everí on this site, but I canít do that now and this makes me sad.