This was clearly a trend following project after the success of some other period costume martial arts/ WuXia movies starring the likes of Jet Li in the early 90s. White Lotus Cult was set as the first of a trilogy with the main character Tie Qiao San, the overall story arch could have been formidable with a love triangle and two rather powerful villains in the first and last instalments. However, it did not ever happen. Even though it was a co-production between mainland and hongkong film companies, the production value was at best barely better than the flicks produced by the hk triads at that same time. Anachronisms overwhelm the movie in the mise en scene, the characters, and the plots.
The male protagonist is not likeable and grossly blend, not to mention gravely lack the charm and star power.
The two female leads, played by Chuan-Chen Yeh and Fennie Yuen, were supposedly great characters through out the franchise, were given only little than not much to do. The female supporting role played by Lily Lee, was supposed to be a crucial mentor figure from the second act of the first movie on ward, was not given much dimensions to expand. The slightly over the top villain played by the late Ji Chunhua was the only saving grace for the first movie.
The major driving conflict in the first movie, the menacing White Lotus clan, end up feeling rather low stake and uninteresting thanks to poor execution from script to film.
Stylistically, the first movie struggles to awkwardly find footing between the martial arts fantasies which emphasize Chi/inner power, and the relatively more realistic, although still wire heavy styles of films with the likes of Once Upon a Time in China and others.
Tonally, the movie and the trilogy altogether tries to copy the formula and balance serious subjects, martial arts, and comic relief within each movie, but end up being none of the three.
In conclusion, not interesting, not entertaining, not exciting, and god awful pacing. One star for the fight choreography, note it was fight choreography, not action set pieces for it virtually had none.