So I think one last kung fu movie before I take a break from them is in order. But really. Kung fu movies are a lot of fun and sometimes you just gotta take a few weeks and get your fix of martial arts mayhem. Today, I’m going to be looking at Yuen Woo-ping’s 2010 film, True Legend. This is sort of an odd movie because it has some of the coolest, brutal, and out of this world martial arts action that I have seen in a very long time. It really is very original, but it also has one of the worst story lines I have ever seen, making it one of the best and one of the worst kung fu movies I’ve ever seen.
Su Can (Vincent Zhao) is a military leader who declines a position as governor to open up a martial arts school and marry the love of his life, Xiao Ying (Zhou Xun). The governor position is then given to Ying’s brother and close friend to Su Can, Yuan Lie (Andy On). Unbeknownst to Su Can and Ying is the violent thoughts that Yuan has towards Su Can and his father, which drive him to learn the deadly style of the Five Venom Fists. When Yuan almost destroys Su Can’s life, he goes into hiding to perfect his skills and have revenge on Yuan, but what this vengeance causes could never have been foreseen.
In theory, the story of this movie could work very well. The Five Venom Fists style just sounds awesome, and seeing it in action is really something. True Legend also shows a stylized and highly fictionalized version of how the Drunken Fighting technique was created. This is all really cool, but WHAT WAS THE SCREENWRITER THINKING?! Someone who just really likes martial arts movie and has seen at least one film in their entire lives could write a much better screenplay than this. It has to be one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The story seems to be going normally, until the climax happens close to 45 minutes before the movie is even over! It just felt so weird. The pacing in this movie seems like it has no idea what the hell is going on.
What may even be worst than the story’s pacing and the uncontrollably cheesy dialogue is Su Can’s son who we see at age 5 and then age 8. When this kid is 5, I really had no problem with him. He was kind of there but didn’t do a whole lot, but when he’s 8…things changed. When I say that this little brat cried for the last hour of the movie, I mean he didn’t stop. And he wasn’t doing these normal little kid cries, he was SCREAMING! I swear this kid wailed and wailed for damn near sixty minutes. I had to keep turning the tv down because if I heard him cry one more time, I was going to turn the damn movie off.
I can’t really shit on this movie too much because the action was all really epic. Yuan’s character also had a really cool design with the armor sewn into his skin and his pale skin. The fighting was also just really original. One part of a fight ends up in a well where the two characters have to fight but also keep a grip on the walls. Seeing Yuan’s almost supernatural fighting also added to the originality. In that way, this movie really succeeds more than a lot of martial arts movies that I’ve seen. It’s easy to sometimes switch off and watch movies like this without really thinking, but whenever there was a fight scene, I really felt the urge to pay attention.
True Legend had some of the coolest fighting and some of the worst storytelling making it one hell of an uneven movie. The action scenes were original and very well choreographed, but it’s hard to get past the horrific narrative structure and a kid that doesn’t stop crying for half the movie. Another cool thing is that David Carradine has a small part in this movie, and was one of his last ones being released after his death. But not even David Carradine can change my opinions on this movie. If you want to see the cool fight scenes I’m talking about, just look them up and skip the rest of the movie.