Martial arts action movies have always been known for two things: great action sequences and mediocre acting. True Legend continues this trend with its epic storytelling, breathtaking fight choreography and over the top cheesy acting. It’s a movie that will entertain you, for sure; however, I don’t see the actors winning any major awards for their less-than-stellar efforts.
The story takes place in dynastic China and revolves around Su Can (Vincent Zhao), a skilled military general and devoted family man. He has a wife, Ying, and a young son, Feng. Su also has an envious step brother Yuan (Andy On), who harbors resentment towards Su’s father. This is because years ago, Su’s father killed Yuan’s father when he became too involved with an evil martial arts technique called the Five Venom Fists. Yuan plans to seek revenge on Su’s family and does so by kidnapping Feng from Su and Ying. Yuan abducts Feng while Su and Ying are left for dead in a river rapid. They eventually wash up in a deserted forest area where they come across Sister Yu (Michelle Yeoh), an herbalist who treats Su’s wounds and takes him and Ying in.
While at Sister Yu’s home, Su turns to drinking and soon begins practicing a form of martial arts called Wu Shu. While he practices, Su has delusions that he is fighting the God of Wu Shu (Jay Chou) and an old sage. Su and Ying stay at Sister Yu’s for years all the while Feng is growing up under the care of his sinister uncle Yuan. Eventually Su shows signs that he is becoming mad, obsessed with Wu Shu. Meanwhile, Ying gets fed up and decides to rescue Feng.
True Legend is a true epic. It is a film that features breathtaking locales, elaborate costumes, sweeping music and of course truly remarkable fight choreography. Director Yuen Woo Ping (choreographer for The Matrix trilogy, Kill Bill Volumes I and II, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero) has crafted a very solid action movie here. Most of the elements fit together rather nicely.
The fight scenes are terrific. They are, without a doubt, the highlight of the film. These sequences contain mixed martial arts, knife combat and aerial stunts. My only qualms are with the acting and the script. The characters are very two-dimensional and the actors do very little to fix this problem. The dialogue is also rather corny and does little to improve the quality of the film. It should also be noted that this is David Carradine’s last film. He has a small role towards the end of the movie.
There are many mediocre pictures out there but True Legend rises above most productions. It is a classic tale of revenge with awesome fight scenes peppered throughout. While many action movies today require expensive CGI and obvious fakeness to achieve those money shots, True Legend is different. The filmmakers have relied heavily on the athleticism and agility of its actors/martial artists. This movie is about heroes and villains, the battle of good versus evil. Sure, the story may be a bit tired and stale but the action scenes are very, very fresh.