Set in late 19th century Canton this martial arts film depicts the stance taken by the legendary martial arts hero Wong Fei-Hung (1847-1924) against foreign forces' (English, French and ... See full summary »
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Wong Fei-Hung and sidekick Chung arrive in Peking just as the Empress announces a Lion Dance martial arts contest. Also accompanying him is cousin Yee, his young, Westernized aunt-by-adoption, to whom Wong is secretly betrothed. Wong faces a possible romantic rival in a Russian diplomat, Tumanovsky, whom Aunt Yee knew back in school, and a martial arts rival in the brutal Club Foot, who beats up Wong's father. Club Foot works for the slimy Leung Fun, who is determined to win the prestigious Lion Dance contest at any cost. However, by the time the spectacular Lion Dance contest occurs many things will change. Written by
Very enjoyable film that stands well with it's predecessors
In order to demonstrate a show of strength to the foreigners, the Empress decrees a Lion King competition between the various martial arts schools. Wong Fei-hung returns home at this time to visit his father's school to find that the Tai-Ping school have set out to destroy the other schools before the competition itself. Fei-hung tries to bring peace between the schools but fails to stop the contest. Meanwhile Cousin suspects something more sinister going on around the contest.
I feel like I'm under pressure here to say this isn't as good as the previous two films, simply because that seems to be the consensus of opinion on among reviewers here and also conventional wisdom says that a series will lose quality as it goes along. I settled to watch this expecting to be a drop from parts I & II (both of which I enjoyed), however I must say I found it to be every bit as enjoyable as part II (which I considered a more enjoyable film than part I). I do, however, recognise that it has weaknesses over the other two films.
First off, the plot is significantly weaker and even needs a last minute conspiratorial shot in the arm to help up the drama and give the characters something extra to do. That said I still felt the film moved along well and wasn't too bothered by the lack of a real strong structure. The fights are free flowing and enjoyable (even if they have weak reasons for occurring sometimes). There is no one fight that really competes with the climax of part I but that doesn't mean they're bad. Certainly fans of Matrix and Crouching Tiger (who think this stuff is all a new invention!) will be impressed as indeed was I. The Lion King contest has been criticised for hiding the skills of the actors but I think it made for a different show of skill that did involve their martial arts skills and showed them in a big way. There are some scenes that are too clearly wire-work (although it is all wire work) but the majority of it flows very well.
The main reason this film worked well for me was the way that it kept the humour from part II. The gentle comic touches all through are laugh-out-loud funny and really binds the whole film together. I've always felt that part II's humour made it better than part I, and part III continues that well. The romance between Fei-hung and cousin is also played well for both laughs and romance.
The main reason the comedy works so well is the cast who all show a real skill for it. Mok's Yoon is the main reason for this and his little touches are great fun to watch. Jet Li also shows a real ability in comic acting that Hollywood has spectacularly failed to utilise (thus far). His interaction with the excellent Kwan brings a real spark to the film in the quieter scenes. His real skill of course is the martial arts and he is a real presence in every action scene. The addition of Iron Foot (Xiong) works well and he is a good character who is developed past the bad guy character he is first presented as.
Overall I can understand why many would feel that this is a lesser film but I must say that I find it hard to put a wedge between any of the first three in the series (I have only seen these thus far). However, I enjoyed the action and felt that the comic touches worked very well and made this a very enjoyable film that was very easy to watch. The plot may be weaker than the previous films but it has other strengths that are used well. I can't comment on the rest of the series but this film made parts I-III a very strong and enjoyable series of films.
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