Lionsgate // 2010 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 15th, 2010
Every movie kills.
One of the up-and-coming overseas action stars, Wu Jing (Kill Zone), takes center stage in this fairly mundane outing peppered with some supreme kicks to the face.
Wu Jing is the titular assassin, Bo Tong Lam, a guy who's fresh off his latest job, the whacking of a big-shot crimelord. He lands in a sleepy fishing town, attempting to elude the heat. One day at lunch, his chivalry kicks in and he intervenes when a young female police officer is getting slapped around by some local toughs. After he issues a severe beatdown, Lam finds himself back on the grid, cavorting with his new pal and her friends and inadvertently drawing the attention of a legion of goons, all seeking revenge for their boss's death, yet unsuspecting of the epic forearm colonoscopy they're about to receive.
Wu Jing is the real deal. I stumbled across this guy's skillset thanks to my recent exposure to Kill Zone, where he played the requisite super-heavy across from Donnie Yen's hero. These two engaged in one of the coolest one-on-one bouts I've seen in an import actioner, a delirious knife/police-baton melee. Jing's movements were a sight to behold and he matched up favorably against human special effect Donnie Yen.
So I was excited about his potential as the focal point of the fight choreography and for the most part, Legendary Assassin provided a strong vehicle for him to flash his skills. Though, as a film, Assassin doesn't quite distinguish itself, aside from the Wu Jing's presence and an ambiguous ending that may or may not have been crushingly depressing. The plot is simplistic -- guy gets chased by bad guys, meets a girl, likes her a lot -- and there was a bit too much downtime between the fisticuffs.
Still, once the shackles were taken off of Jing, he blew it up. The man is shockingly quick and though the choreography didn't include the big stunt pieces you'd find in a Tony Jaa or Jackie Chan endeavor, his fights nevertheless thrilled. I didn't see stuff that I had never seen before, but when the set-ups are this well planned and executed I can't complain.
Actually, I can complain about one thing. There was a small amount of wire work. I am not a wirework guy. It has its place, I'll grant, particularly in the fantasy martial arts epics like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers, but when it comes to street-fight throwdowns like the ilk found here, wire-assisted stunts -- even if there's a minimum -- dilutes the visceral impact of the fight scenes. Wu Jing is obviously capable of handling himself without the harness -- why take away from his ability?
That's all the negativity I can muster. This is straightforward chop-socky, pulled off by a serious talent and worth a look for anyone angling for a dose of sweet action and a glimpse at the Next Big Thing.
The DVD: a soft, but adequate 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer joined by a two 5.1 surround tracks (Cantonese and English dubbed) and a pair of making-of featurettes.
Ignore the Random Action Movie Title Generator title -- Legendary Assassin is fun stuff.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R