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|Index||38 reviews in total|
Wow. After seeing this, Jet Li is truly awesome. But he's not the only one
who shines here.
Fong Sai Yuk (Jet Li) is a young man who yearns to compete and backs it up with amazing kung fu. Jet is more carefree in this one and doesn't hesitate to fight. Josephine Siao plays his mother and she's such a character!! Any scene with her and Jet are just too funny! Michelle Reis plays the beautiful Ting Ting and has very good chemistry with Jet in the film (lucky guy!). Her dad Tiger Lu (Sung Young Chen) is quite a kooky character too and his mood swings provide for humor as well.
Now on to the action. The 'marriage' contest is AMAZING as Jet and Sibelle Hu are literally fighting over the crowd stepping from head to head, shoulder to shoulder. Jet really shows his prowess throughout the film fighting with fists, feet, swords, arrows and more! Credit deservedly goes to Corey Yuen who displays some of the most creative battles I've ever seen.
With a really cool soundtrack, great cast, humor and great kung fu, Fong Sai Yuk is really fun to watch.
I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of this movie, and all I can say
is WOW! Wow, because I didn't understand what the hell was going on for the
whole movie, the subtitles were so badly misaligned. But mainly WOW!
because it didn't matter a jot that I couldn't tell what the plot was as the
film is just one amazing "fight" scene after another. This film defies
belief, and description. If you like martial arts movies, check this out.
If you enjoyed Crouching Tiger, check this out. If you love MAD films check
There is a scene in which Jet Li fights the mother of the woman he has a crush on entirely on the HEADS of a crowd! Then HIS mother has a fight with the first woman.
From the opening scene you will see that this is a piece of genius. The plot doesn't matter. This is pure spectacle.
When you see these people move you will realise that the USA can never invade China. They just have all the tricks in the book. They wrote the tricks. I wish I had seen this when I was 9. It would have changed my life totally.
The Fong family live under the rule of a land-grabbing Governor who is
keen to be liked by the people despite being challenged by an
underground movement for Chinese freedom called the Red Lotus Flower
Society. When the Governor offers the hand of his daughter to the man
who can defeat his wife in combat, Sai-Yuk Fong enters, only losing the
fight on purpose when he spots who he thinks is the daughter. His
mother enters (dressed as a man and passing herself as Sai-Yuk's
brother) in order to win and, in doing so, accidentally wins the heart
of the Governor's wife. With the Fong's already in trouble for this
imaginary brother turning down the daughter's hand, things get worse
when the Emperor comes to town to expose and destroy the members of the
Red Lotus a group that Father Fong is a key member of.
As the plot summary suggests, this is a very busy little film with a plot that is very simple but at the same time filled with lots of little things going on. In a way this is a problem because many of these things are by the by and only serve to fill a movie who's basic plot is 'Fong fights with bad Emperor', but here it doesn't matter so much because this patchwork of little events fit well into this basic frame of a story and make the film enjoyable. Each little bit works well to create a film that is actually fun to watch. The script throws up plenty of well written lines not jokes, but actions and dialogue that is witty and fun to listen to. I was caught up in the light tone it had for the most part and really enjoyed it; only in the final quarter does the tone turn harder and it is done a bit too suddenly for the film's own good damaging the sense of fun it had garnered up until then. Aside from this, the overall plot is nothing more than a frame and I can understand why some viewers would be bothered by both the lack of firm foundations as well as the comic tone.
For me though, the comic tone was a big reason I loved it just like I felt it made Once Upon a Time in China 3 so much fun to watch. With physical action, the humour could have been lazy slapstick but it wasn't; instead it is witty dialogue woven into the story through funny characters. The physical work is good too just not for comedy though. The fights are impressive and make good use of the actors' skills as well as effective wirework. Much is made of the fights in trees of Crouching Tiger, or the lake fight of Hero but, while these look beautiful, it is a lot more fun to see the fight here that occurs on top of a crowd of people! There is no one fight that stands out as a really great one (indeed the climatic fight is probably the least of the film) but generally they are all of a high standard and are great fun to watch. Li is a great martial artist and he makes it all seem so natural and easy; he also shows that he is a leading man of great charisma and presence something that the swaggering 'gangbanger' movies he has made in the US have not allowed him to show. He is likable, serious, fun and charming and this film shows why (along with the physical skills) he has become such a star. Siao is just as good and is very funny, even with her 'romance' is just filler. Chu is solid as Father Fong, the Governor is an enjoyable clown even if the Emperor lacks real menace. Performances were hard to judge for me as I saw the dubbed version, but the dubbing is not that bad and, while not great actors, the voice talent (as the credits call them) all do well to capture the tone and style of their characters certainly the dubbing fits with the jocular tone of the majority of the film.
Overall this is a really fun film. Admittedly not a really great film but certainly one that I will enjoy watching several times again. The script is funny and witty for the most part and the serious turn doesn't do too much to detract from this. The fights are good and the plot is busy and lively, even if some of it is just filler and the actual narrative flow is not all it really could have been. With Jet Li back in people's minds recently, now is as good a time as any to revisit this film and enjoy it for what it is a well written and fun film that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Fong Sai Yuk I&II were the first 2 HK movies I saw, though an accident of
video recording meant that I had to wait at least a year to see the
beginning of Pt I and the end of Pt II. Even in incomplete form, the two
films were enough to make me an instant fan of HK Cinema (after years of
disappointment with the Hollywood fare I'd been exposed to). I think
possibly the best introduction to the territory's movie industry there
be... if you don't love Fong Sai Yuk, chances are Hong Kong Cinema is not
the cinema for you. It's a rare example of everything coming together, if
not perfectly then at least very well.
The solid script from Jeff Lau is the anchor without which the movie would not have succeeded. In typical Jeff Lau style it bounces all over the place, from stupid comedy to high (melo)drama via a little romance and the obligatory gender confusions, and of course leading into the incredibly imaginitive action sequences choreographed by director Corey Yuen and former opera brother Yuen Tak.
The production values for the movie are very high, if not quite as slick as the Once Upon A Time In China movies they clearly aspire to emulating. Ann Hui is credited as Production Designer here, a rare role for the critically adored director. The cinematography from Jingle Ma is top notch, framing the luscious sets and costumes and the action very well. The soundtrack from James Wong (with regular partner Romeo Diaz) seems a little too close to his score for OUATIC in places, but mostly does a commendable job.
Jet Li has said that Fong Sai Yuk is the character that most closely resembles his real personality from all those he's played. From the small time I've spent in Jet's company I'm not sure his self-image is entirely accurate, but he's probably in a better position to judge than me Certainly Fong Sai Yuk is a very likeable chap the way Jet plays him, and you can tell Jet was 100% into the character and the project. Despite this, the show is unequivocally stolen by Josephine Siao Fong-Fong as Fong Sai Yuk's kung fu fighting mother. She plays her character to perfection, showing a fantastic knack for comedy which I'm not sure she ever got to display in her roles when she was "in her prime" and also kicking ass in . Sibelle Hu also steals a fair amount of screen as the mother of Fong Sai Yuk's love interest (the beautiful Michelle Reis), and wife of semi-villain Tiger Lui (Chan Chung-Yung?), who also shines with an affably overstated performance. Of all the cast, Fong Sai Yuk's father (Paul Chu Kong?) is probably the only one whose performance is rather weak and forgettable. Main villain Chiu Man Cheuk is conspicuously far more charismatic and convincing than in any other movie he's been in apart from The Blade.
Fong Sai Yuk could be described as a light-hearted riff on the wire-fu wave launched by Once Upon A Time In China. Certainly humour is brought to the front here whilst the politics is pushed quite far to the back. Hong Kong humour can be an acquired taste, and the jokes sometimes fall flat in Fong Sai Yuk. Jeff Lau's jokes are generally a bit hit or miss, but he aims so wide that it's not surprising. There are some genuinely funny moments though.
When it comes down to it, the action scenes are what really got me hooked when I saw the movies though. Since Tsui Hark raised the bar several notches above anything people had imagined possible for fight scenes when he made Once Upon A Time In China, the Hong Kong choreographers had been engaged in a battle to see who could produce the most inventive and outlandish action scenes. The best of the bunch tended to be in Jet Li's movies, and the fights in Fong Sai Yuk are fine examples of HK creativity. Purists will no doubt cry that the fight scenes rely too heavily on wires, editing and stunt doubles, but I'm sure that Bruce Lee's statement about missing all that heavenly glory applies here. Grandly conceived if not flawlessly executed, the fights in Fong Sai Yuk were especially impressive to these innocent eyes that had never seen action Hong Kong style before. "How the? What the? Did they just?" etc etc. I wish they'd spent just a little bit more time tightening up the camera angles and hiding the obvious doubles better, but I can't fault them for ambition. I think the movie won the "best action" award that year, which is pretty impressive for a HK movie made in 1993, the year the new wave style reached its peak.
Fong Sai Yuk is definitely a movie that has a special place in many fans hearts, even though it does have too many mis-fired jokes and rough edges to be called a true masterpiece. Still a must see for any fan of Hong Kong cinema though, a wonderfully representative example of what makes it so special and unique.
Sadly, the DVD owner that wishes to watch Fong Sai Yuk is faced with only 3 choices, none of which are particularly appealing. They are:
1. Original Universe HK DVD with Mono sound. One of the earlier HK DVDs, basically a laser disc badly transfered to the smaller radius medium. Burnt in subs, washed out picture from a dirty print and badly framed such that the picture drifts up and down throughout, sometimes cutting subtitles in half.
2. Universe "Remaster" HK DVD with 5.1 sound. New picture transfer that now looks more like VHS than laser disc thanks to excessive edge enhancement, but at last removable subtitles that are clear and easy to read. Unfortunately the disc is totally ruined by the worst 5.1 remix *ever*. Sounds like it was mixed in a bathroom by a monkey with a rat in his head. Crap new sound effects totally mis-timed and with completely random levels, dialogue mixed to fit listeners on a heavy acid trip and... well, it's horrible actually. I tried it for 15 minutes then switched back to the original disc.
3. "The Legend" - absurdly retitled and otherwise Disney-fied release that doubtless looks miles better than either HK disc, but is rendered totally worthless by the inexcusable failure to include the original Cantonese language audio and English subtitles. If this is all you've seen, you've not seen the movie at all. It's probably cut by 30 minutes and re-scored with rap music, knowing Miramax's utter contempt for their catalogue and audience.
I think the best versions of the movies I have are still the long play VHS copies recorded from Channel 4 in the UK before I discovered DVD, to be quite honest. A ridiculous state of affairs for such a classic movie!
Unless you believe that all films must be deep and meaningful, you'll love this film. For just pure entertainment, this film is hard to beat. This beats most action films out of the west. Its special effects are due totally to the stars' martial arts skills, not some gazillion dollar budget and special editing. The plot is wonderful. Besides, who can resist a film where the hero, if he's is in danger, will call on Mom to beat up the enemy? Sit back, get out the popcorn, and be prepared to be wildly entertained.
Jet revives another Chinese folk-hero into traditional action with a spirited portrayal of Fong Sai Yuk, kung fu wonderkid with a happy-go-lucky attitude and gleaming smile: despite their moral standings and martial artistry, Fong couldn't be more different than Jet's other alter-ego Wong Fei-hung. FSY is mostly played for laughs, and succeeds in all departments. Plots run parallel: one, in which Fong enters a kung fu competition held by former bandit Tiger Liu (Chen Sung Yung) offering his daughter as the prize, only to lose out to Liu's wife, Siu (Sibelle Hu), so his equally-spirited mother presumes male garb and takes over: she not only wins the competition but also wins Siu's heart! The other reveals Fong's father to be a key member of the Red Flower society and in possession of a list of its members, gutlessly pursued by an evil Manchu general (Zhao Wen Zhou). Everything simply falls into place and we're left with a truly delightful action romp, with special turnouts from charming comedienne Josephine Siao (as Fong's mother) and the always-exciting Jet Li.
Believe it or not, this was the movie that introduced me to Jet Li. I was immediately hooked. I've read reviews that discredit the dub into English, but I found it easy to overlook this -- in fact, I found it to be somewhat hilarious. This film has all the makings of a great movie. There are no sub-plots that do not get resolved. The servant who always bawls whenever Jet Li's character get's set to go away for a minute or two is downright hilarious. That's one of the unique things about this movie: with so much drama they managed to make a hilarious movie, as well. As usual, the kung fu is extraordinary. In particular, there are a few scenes in which the opponents face off and the camera takes a moment to pause and let the viewer see the poses from a brilliant perspective. This will always be one of my favorite Chinese films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This early Jet Li vehicle has had rather more exposure than some of his
other flicks of the period, thanks to Dimension cashing in on Li's
success in the US and releasing films from his back catalogue. Sadly,
Dimension's decision had many fans up in arms, as the films were
usually re-cut, badly dubbed and had new music added which was inferior
to the original's. As far as I can see, THE LEGEND is no exception,
with the level of dubbing being particularly noticeable. It's quite
lucky that this film has plenty of comedy, as I imagine taking it
seriously would be a difficult task.
Li plays the role of the Chinese hero with typical ease, and gets to do far more comedy here than we usually see in his movies. He fits in with the rest of the actors nicely, and his martial arts skills are, of course, outstanding. The supporting characters are little more than caricatures, although saying that they do tend to stick in your mind faces such as Li's roly-poly assistant, or his kick-ass mother, or the weirdly pale bad guy. The plot is confused but the film looks wonderfully colourful, something I'd attribute to the sure-hand direction of Corey Yuen.
The best element of the film is, of course, the action. It's here where THE LEGEND really excels and becomes better than the norm. Wire work is in use here at all times, so don't go in expecting realism; instead, you get scenes of people flying, running along on the tops of crowds, and performing all manner of gravity-defying stunts. The fights are generally excellent, with three big standouts. The first is the kung fu contest where participants lose when they touch the ground; when Li joins it, it goes on for about ten minutes but never becomes boring. The other two quality moments are the battles with the pale bad guy, one halfway through and the other at the climax; both are terrifically inventive and packed with imaginative situations. It's the cartoonish action that really bolsters this movie and makes it what it is: an unassuming film with fun at the top of the agenda.
i didnt think this was going to be filled with humor, and the humor turned out to be HILARIOUS! i was really suprised at how funny this movie was. it could have been a comedy all by it self, it didnt even need action. but we got brilliant action, and thats awesome. one to check out.
a comedy. an action movie. few impressive fight scenes. and the wise measure between theme. result - a nice movie who has something from kids movies but, in same measure, the flavor of an interesting job. not special but seductive. not a great script but the measure as powerful rule. a film who has its charm and who gives a Jet Li in admirable role. so, almost a surprise. and a form of entertainment who remains so nice than you ignores the not inspired parts. dramatic scenes are perfect ingredients for easy humor. the basic values are presented in right form. and that facts does the film a decent show. for martial arts fans, sure, more that.
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