Judge David Johnson is a True Legend of Jenga.
Our review of True Legend, published September 23rd, 2011, is also available.
3/4 of delectable insanity. 1/4 of disposable familiarity.
Courtesy of the legendary Yuen Woo Ping, True Legend is a high-flying wire-fu action orgy that runs light on the plot but heavy in pretty much everything else.
Facts of the Case
For Su Can (Vincent Zhao), the last thing he wants to see is his crazy brother Yuan (Andy On) walking through the family vestibule. A bitterly envious, slightly nuts and newly armored (plating sowed right into his skin!) Yuan does in fact show up to settle a score with the family that ostracized him and he comes calling with a terrifying new ability: the Five Venom Fists. After single-handedly wiping out nearly all of Su Can's loved ones, Yuan issues a severe beating to his brother, who crawls into exile, intent on learning a new style to defeat his brother. That style? Drunken Fist, as taught to him in a series of feverish hallucinations by the God of Wushu.
A final showdown looms. And then a whole other tired plotline. And then the movie ends a little later.
I am not a fan of CGI-enabled, wire-assisted period piece kung fu. Having been effectively seduced by the grittier, do-it-for-real insanity that the good folks from Thailand, Indonesia and Korea serve up in their action endeavors, the leaping and flying and hyper-stylized acrobatics just don't appeal.
However, I cannot deny the eye-popping spectacle that Yuen Woo Ping has put together. He goes all in, employing every trick conceived to ensure that his actors are engaging in hyper-kinetic stunts and battle choreography and the result is a fantastic, over-the-top orgy of marital arts mayhem that takes one look at things like "gravity" and "The Second Law of Thermodynamics," and drops a fat deuce on them. This is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on meth.
And I can dig it. Heck, if you're going to go down that road, go down that road. As spectacle separated from reality and the burden of physics, True Legend is unrivaled. It's also unrelenting, with action set-pieces motoring after one another with only a scant few seconds devoted to plot. Which of course matters not one whit, since the breadth and depth of the storytelling is "Brother A is a jerk and beats the living hell out of Brother B so Brother B learns some cool new moves from a weirdo dressed like the White Power Ranger and then returns and beats the living hell out of Brother A." Simple, uncomplicated and, most importantly, easy enough to drape endless fight scenes on.
But then, about a third of the way through, True Legend shifts and becomes a different movie. What was once a wafer-thin, yet entertaining fantasy martial arts beatdown morphs into yet another tiresome Chinese-fighter-defending-the-honor-of-the-homeland-against-the-frothing-douchebags-of-the-West. That's right, our hero enters a tournament where a crew of hulking foreign brutes have been pulverizing the locals and uses his Drunken Fist to stick up for China. How many times have I seen this convention utilized in kung fu films recently? I've lost count. What I do know is that I have become disinterested in its tedium and predictability. Give me a pale, vicious megalomaniac with armor plates sown into his flesh any day over this twaddle. A disappointing finish.
Good Blu-ray, though, headlined by a slick 2.35:1 (AVC-encoded) transfer. This is a loud and bright film, with grit and gun-metal gray traded in for vibrant garb, sweeping landscapes and rich color levels and the visual treatment pushes the mayhem out cleanly. Two audio tracks to choose from but only one is the correct answer: the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Mandarin). Extras: five brief, mediocre and non-HD making-of featurettes, a storyboard-to-scene demonstration and a music video.
It's 75% of a fun movie. Don't think that's enough.
Guilty of pulling the rug out from under out feet.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
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