Once Upon a Time in China III (1992) Poster

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Not up to the quality of the first two films, but still good fun
Leofwine_draca22 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The third film in the Jet Li series is very much a minor movie in comparison to the first two, with a plot that simply rehashes the old East-meets-West theme, throws in some very average comedy, some nice romantic touches between the two leads, and some enjoyable action sequences. One thing missing from the previous adventures is Yuen Woo-ping, who went elsewhere, leaving the action choreography to somebody else. The resulting fight sequences are just as lavish as before, but more obviously involve wire work; this time, Li is a superhero who can jump ten feet in the air and there's a villain called Iron Foot who can fly with his feet.

The story is pretty unchallenging, involving an evil factory owner and a Russian agent with a dark secret. Props feature strongly, this time a camera and those Chinese dragons, which take centre stage at the film's climatic Lion King contest. This climax is a bit of a disappointment, as Li and his opponents are hidden inside massive dragon costumes for the most part, and it lacks the dramatic power of a one-on-one battle like the previous movies offered. However, Tsui Hark does offer something a bit more original and what it lacks in dynamism, it makes up for in sheer visual spectacle.

Rosamund Kwan is probably the best thing in this film, having some very sweet moments with Li, who is good but appears to be going through the motions; it's no wonder he left the series, as he's had no character progression for two movies now. One actor who is very good indeed is newcomer to the series Xi Xi Xiong (DOUBLE TEAM) as villain Iron Foot, who has some fantastic wire-aided action moments and is easily the most memorable thing in the film. There are some 'fun' martial arts bits that make use of some imaginative scenarios. One has Li on an oil-slicked floor dodging missiles, whilst another sees him battling swordsmen using only his coat. There's a bit of blood and guts (including a pretty shocking mangled leg shot) and the classic Wong Fei-hung theme music is back infrequently. Although this film offers absolutely nothing new to the series or the genre as a whole, Hark's lavish choreography and production values make it a very agreeable viewing experience.
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Very enjoyable film that stands well with it's predecessors
bob the moo26 June 2003
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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Once Upon a Time in China 3
Tweekums21 March 2019
This sequel is set in Beijing; the Dowager Empress has decided to stage a lion dance festival to show off Chinese martial arts and encourage more people to take up kung fu. As preparations are getting underway Wong Fei-hung, along with 'Aunt' Yee and Foon, arrive in Beijing to visit Wong's father. He is the head of one of the martial arts schools hoping to compete in the festival... however the leader of one school is trying to bully all of the others into backing out of the competition. Inevitably Wong gets involved as he tries to encourage peaceful behaviour. In the background to this Wong is jealous after Aunt Yee meets up with a Russian friend she first met while studying in Britain. As the festival approaches tensions rise further and there are more intense fights.

This film is a fun addition to the 'Once Upon a Time in China' series of films; it has a decent, if simply, story, plenty of laughs and a lot of brilliantly choreographed martial arts. The three main characters are back, although for some reason 'Aunt' Yee becomes 'Cousin' in the subtitles of the version I saw. There are also good new characters, notable Clubfoot (renamed Iron Foot), the villain Chiu Tin-bak and the Russian Tomanovsky. As said before there is lots of impressive martial arts action; some of this includes obvious wire-work but that didn't bother me; much of it also takes place while the characters are in their lion costumes which looks pretty cool. The romantic subplot provides a few decent laughs without distracting from the main plot. The acting is pretty solid throughout; most notably from Jet Li and Rosamund Kwan as Wong and Aunt Yee. Overall I really enjoyed this and suspect most fans of less brutal martial arts films will enjoy it too.

These comments are based on watching the film in Cantonese with English subtitles.
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Too many lions!
BA_Harrison15 June 2007
The Empress of China decides to hold a Lion King competition as a show of strength to foreigners; rather than uniting her people, the impending event causes fights to break out between rival martial arts schools across the country. Out to ensure that as many potential winners are quashed before the contest even takes place, the nasty Chiu Tim-ba and his men attack the other competitors, including the father of the legendary Wong Fei Hung.

Wong (Jet Li) steps in to protect his old man, gets in a few scraps, and eventually becomes involved in foiling an assassination attempt on a high ranking governor, whilst at the same time trying to make sure that the ex-boyfriend of his sweetheart stays his distance.

As a big fan of Jet Li, I really have tried my utmost to enjoy the OUATIC movies, but, even with the incredible cinematography, lavish sets and costumes, powerful score, and welcome appearances from industry greats such as Yuen Baio and Donnie Yen, the series has left me rather unimpressed.

And Part 3 does nothing to change that.

This chapter moves the action from Canton to Beijing, but almost everything else stays the same. We get more xenophobia, more silly wire-work enhanced fight scenes, more playful romance between Wong and his girl (the gorgeous Rosamund Kwan), more lame comedy, and not enough memorable martial arts action from Li. And this time round we also get lion dances. Lots and lots of lion dances.

If the sight of men dancing and leaping about in brightly coloured lion costumes doesn't sound like fun to you, then I strongly suggest you do not watch this film (lion dance fetishists, however, will have a field day!).

I had always found the traditional Chinese lion dance rather interesting to watch, but this film has dampened my enthusiasm for them more than just a tad. OUATIC 3 starts with lion dances, has a few lion dances throughout, and end with lots of... you guessed it.... lion dances!!! Sure, some of the lions have booby trapped mouths which fire arrows, and another has blades attached to it, and there's a humongous lion at the end to spice things up, but there's only so much wiggling of lion bodies, jiggling of lion heads, snapping of lion mouths and fluttering of big lion eyes that I can take.

In fact, only the presence of the delightful Miss Kwan as Aunt (or is it cousin?) Yee kept me sane. Once again, she is a joy to behold and makes the whole lion-infested film worth enduring.

5.5/10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
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Lots of lion fighting...
paul_haakonsen24 December 2015
While the third movie in the "Once Upon a Time in China" series were better than part one, but wasn't up to part two story-wise, then this third installment did manage to hold its own. While it was very weak in storyline, it more than made up for the shortcoming in action and Chinese lion sequences.

It seemed like the storyline was rushed through and that most of the movie had a script that was just made up as director Tsui Hark went along with shooting the film. But luckily the impressive action and martial arts were more than making up for it. It should also be said that there is a lot of scenes and fighting sequences with Chinese lions. So take that into consideration if you might have a problem with that.

Jet Li delivers quite well once again, despite not having much of a solid and proper script to work with. So "Once Upon a Time in China 3" (aka "Wong Fei Hung III: Si wong jaang ba") seems mostly like a showcase for Jet Li's martial arts skills.

This is not one of the brightest moments in Hong Kong cinema, nor in Tsui Hark's directing career.

"Once Upon a Time in China 3" is a movie mostly appealing only to fans of Jet Li.
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So many lion dancers!
OllieSuave-00726 March 2017
Jet Li plays the legendary Chinese martial arts hero, Wong Fei Hung once more. Set in ancient China, the cinematography once again catches the scenery and atmosphere beautifully and sets the stage for all the awesome action sequences.

Jet Li's impressive martial arts moves continue to be a highlight of the film, battling bad guys left and right. In this movie, he and his disciples take part in a "Dancing Lion Competition" to stop an assassination plot.

The lion dance competition toward the climax of the film is probably the biggest highlight of the film - dozens of lion dancers battle it out to win the prize, including facing off with dragon dancers and the humongous sharp-toothed lion head.

The acting went overboard in my opinion. Jet Li acted too dramatic in his role and Xin Xin Xiong acted like he was angry at the entire world - too vengeful and too full of uncontrollable rage.

The music score is also well played, especially the toe tapping and theme sung by George Lam. Not as suspenseful as the original Jet Li Wong Fei Hung movie, though. The lion dances were a treat, but the overall plot went all over the place somewhat.

Grade C
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Another Fantastic Chapter In This Amazing Series!,And It Introduces us To Another Great Character Club Foot!
callanvass19 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is another fantastic chapter in this amazing series, and introduces us, to another great character Clubfoot!. It's not quite as good as the 1st 2 however, it's still grand entertainment and everything was still brilliant plus Jet Li is simply amazing once again!. The fight choreography is as good as ever, and the romance was great, plus Foon is hilarious once again!. Some of the dialog was very funny, and the fight scenes were amazing, plus the character development was very good once again. Jet Li and Rosamund Kwan had very good chemistry together once again. The end fight is spectacular, and it did tend to concentrate a lot on the romance angle, plus the story was excellent!. The villain was really good, and once again it send a great message, plus all the characters were awesome!. This is another fantastic chapter in this amazing series, and it introduces, us to another great character Clubfoot!, and i say it's a must see regardless. The Direction is excellent. Hark Tsui does an excellent job here, with fantastic camera work, amazing shots during the action scenes, some other incredible shots and keeping the film at an incredibly fast pace. There is a bit of blood and violence. We get Extremely Gory wounds,impaling's slit throat and a couple gunshot wounds. The Acting is fantastic!. Jet Li is AMAZING as always, and is amazing here, he adds a great comical touch, really seemed to be enjoying himself, kicked that ass, had very good chemistry with Rosamund Kwan once again,and was just tons of fun to watch!. (jet Rules!). Rosamund Kwan is great here as Aunt 13 once again, she is as likable as ever!, and is very beautiful. Shun Lau is awesome as Jet's dad and also added a great comic touch as well. Siu Chung Mok is fantastic as Foon!, and cracked my ass up.Xin Xin Xiong is Fantastic as Clubfoot i just loved him!, one of my favorite characters. rest of the cast do great. Overall a must see regardless. ***** out of 5
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Disappointing! 2/10
leonblackwood14 December 2014
Review: I couldn't really get into this movie because the acting was terrible, along with the poor storyline. The showdown at the end wasn't that great and I found the love story annoying. Once again, the film is based around foreigners taking over China, but this storyline gets a bit silly after a while because people are fighting each other for no reason. I was hoping to see some of the old characters from the first movie, but the director chose to stick with the annoying sidekick from the second one. I did like Thunder Foot, who looked pretty strange but his martial arts skills was brilliant. In all, I was very disappointed with the film especially because the first one was so good. Disappointing!

Round-Up: They should have called this movie "Return Of The Strings" because some of the action scenes was ridiculous. The fighting in mid-air went way too far and a lot of the action was unrealistic. I doubt that I'll be watching any of the other movies in this franchise because it went downhill after the first movie and they also don't star Jet Li. Once I started to see the flying in the air, I knew that the rest of the movies might go down this road so I've chosen to stay away from them. 

Budget: N/A Worldwide Gross: HK$27.5million

I recommend this movie to people who are into their Jet Li movies and who are familiar with this franchise. 2/10
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Over-complicated and sometimes silly...
dave13-112 April 2012
...but still entertaining for the most part. This third move in the series is the weakest and least ambitious of the group, seeming satisfied to ignore the actual politics of China's tumultuous 19th century in favor of some made-up nonsense about Russian spies.

There is a martial arts tournament at the movie's center which Wong Fei Hung (Jet Li again) enters and must win for some reason, plus the always welcome Rosamund Kwan is back as Aunt Yee and the movie contrives to put her into danger again and again to keep things lively. The resulting mish- mash of a plot is rather hard to keep straight and honestly there is little profit in doing so. The producers themselves seemed to have a poor awareness of where everything was ultimately leading.

Enjoy the good period look and the quite impressive martial arts on display in the tournament and try not to take anything too seriously.
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Entertaining and fun!
InzyWimzy2 July 2002
After seeing this, I realized Tsui Hark really has a knack for period films. Jet Li is Master Wong in this third part of OUATIC series. Honestly, I really enjoyed the scenes with Wong and Aunt Yee (played by always lovely Rosamund Kwan). The way they play off each other is so innocent that you can't help have a smile on your face. It's also a chance to see a jealous Jet Li which adds to the humor. You really root for him to get the girl (lucky Jet).

The action is on point as Jet Li displays his martial arts prowess as he battles a lot of enemies. Great use of a jacket to ward off a street battle and the restaurant fight scene is classic Jet Li (you gotta love that shadowless kick). The Lion dance ceremony was interesting and I enjoyed how chaotic it was as all the dragons battled to get the bait. Foon adds comic relief and Club Foot was a cool character who knows how to get his "kicks".

Overall, I had to see this one after watching part one and two. Even though I expected to see superb fighting, I really enjoyed the romance in the film as well.
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The Hero of the Lion Dance
higherall724 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the most satisfying resolutions to a trilogy I have ever seen. Makes me recall the ending to THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY starring Bob Mitchum, where when you came to the ending you KNEW it was over. When the hero of the piece appeals for education over reward for martial prowess you have something special on your hands. The ending of ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA III will stay with me for a long time.

The thing that stands out for me is the characters this time. I really don't want to say too much as that would spoil all the fun. The Dowager Empress reminds me of my INTRODUCTION TO THE NOVEL teacher Miss Gomez and my Cub Scout Den Mother Mrs. Dubose. I loved all the colors of the costumes and the masks. At times it was almost a comment on the spectacular martial arts fights and stunts, making them at times seem childish and cartoonish. The characters are every one of them painted with a broad brush, but it was exhilarating to see that Tsui Hark was relying very thoroughly on Chinese theatrical traditions and not going out of his way to cater to Western tastes and appetites. A great judgment call in my estimation because you really come to feel warmly for all the characters as though you've finally come to know them at the end.

I must say Rosamund Kwan comes across as more beautiful and glamorous in this third installment than ever before, and very nearly steals the show. Unlike a 'Bond Girl' whom we know will only be eye candy and 007's sexual conquest for a single adventure, we are now seeing Aunt 13 for the third time and the sense of chemistry and monogamy between her and Wong Fei-Hung is stronger than ever. I cannot easily remember where I have seen romantic character development across three movies like this.

Love the chaos of the climatic scene at the Lion Dance competition! It seems so intricate that you just know some parts of it required improvisation to tie up inevitable loose ends. It is wild and woolly, and filled with all kinds of color in motion; like a circus parade unraveling itself. You truly have no idea what is going to happen next or what direction it will be coming from, and you also have a sneaking suspicion that some of the actors feel this way as well, as they are just trying this out that way and then trying that out this way through the various takes. The choreography of this feels like something that would defy even Hitchcock's attempts at story-boarding although I cannot vouch for how true that might be. But that wordless comment '-what the hell is going on???!!-' definitely comes to mind to this viewer with thrilling, giddy glee. This seems so suggestive of the internal social and political turmoil that Chinese society must have been experiencing at this time.

Leave it to our hero Wong Fei-Hung to make sense out of all this somehow and bring order to this seemingly inexhaustible bedlam and melee. That he does indeed seem to do so and even gives the moral of the story to the audience in a way that is far from cheesy with nary a hair out of place in his Confucian reserve is a delight to behold. He marches away with polite indignation and we are called to stand in our hearts to a hero's anthem that exhorts us to improve ourselves every day.

Here at the end, you feel this is what Wong Fei-Hung means to the Chinese people. This is their culture hero who will always exhort them to educate themselves to be better than they are.

May I be excused?
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Jet Li...Wong Fei Hung III
gorytus-2067215 October 2021
Oct 21

Once upon a time in china III is at the same level as part 2 for me.

The overall story continues to roll along and more and more humour finds its way into the series now.

Jet Li didn't return for parts 4 and 5, but did come back for the 6th one, Once upon a time in china and america.

Still well worth watching.

8 out of 10.
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Good story-line but disappointing fighting
drngor23 June 2001
In order to unite the people of China and strengthen their spirit, the Qing government decides to hold a lion dance competition to promote the study of kung fu. This only leads to violence and conflict. Wong Fei Hung, who is visiting Beijing, sees this and is disgusted by the way it's being handled. However, his efforts to get through to the government are futile. He finds himself having to join the competition when he discovers a plot by the Russians to assassinate President Li Hung Chang.

This was the first movie in the OUATIC series that I saw. I was actually quite disappointed when I first saw it. I thought the fighting lacked intensity and the end seemed anti-climatic. It's not that the choreography is bad. Jet looks fit and is in great fighting shape for the film. However, there are no good one-on-one battles for him. His duel with Xiong Xin Xin in the street is short and disappointing, as is the finale against the head of the oil factory. The lion dance scenes are cool.

The story on the other hand, is really good. It has just the right amount of romance, humor, and historical background to sustain itself between the fight scenes. This would be the last of the truly historically relevant entries of the series, as the following films were either over-the-top or would not even focus on historical matters.

Overall, this is good watching. This is not one of Jet's greatest performances fighting-wise. The story makes up for it. Oh, and let me add that Rosamund Kwan is cuter than ever in this movie.
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Jet returns as Wong in a lion dance extravaganza
abentenjo14 April 2002
Though nowhere near as good as its predecessors, episode three of the legendary series does have some memorable moments, though they may appear few and far between. On this occasion, Empress Dowager tries to cause hostility between foreign powers settling in China by holding the ultimate Lion Dance competition set to restore Chinese pride and heritage, only to have it quashed by martial madman Chiu Tin Bai who's intent is to annihilate the competition and win the Lion Dance himself. Wong Fei-hung steps in after his father is beaten down by Chiu's crazy henchman Clubfoot, and the stage is set for Wong's single-handed onslaught of all evildoers and the restoration of some kind of sanity in this crazy town. There's plenty of colourful lion dances to please the eye and Jet is still the most exciting thing around, yet what it really lacks in is purpose, setting no real moral high ground and merely acting as a relentless cash-in on its previous successes.
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Jet Li's cool, and so's Club Foot. But this movie ain't. Too much.
Anonymoo-29 September 1999
Jet Li's "acting" series whips around for a third time in this somewhat disappointing movie. I say "disappointing" because all his previous movies were more about the fighting and less about character development and goofy love triangles. Not that character development is a bad thing, I just feel that it doesn't have much place in a kung-fu film, and ESPECIALLY a Tsui Hark film. While break-dancer Club Foot does some incredible kicks, his character really drops low in the last half hour of the movie, and you wonder why the directors make him do what he does. Jet Li does some incredible fighting as the famous Wong Fei-Hung, but I was truly hoping that Tianbao from "Tai Ji Zhang San Feng" would come in and start a GOOD fight amidst all this lion-dancing crap. C'mon, I wanna see poles, swords, three-part staffs, and nunchaku, not these cumbersome lion masks!
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Jet Li Classic
sarthakjaiswaloo30 August 2021
A very good movie for understanding China's History. And it's Entertaining, action is good, acting of Jet li is also good. Story could be better.
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A little dull, action-wise.
megadoomer10 March 2004
As far as the fighting is concerned, I thought that this one was a little unimpressive. It's pretty slow, overall. I'd really only recommend it to big fans of the first two. There are some good bits of humor and we see some actual romance between Wong Fei-Hung and Aunt 13, but I don't think that that sort of thing is the main reason we watch this sort of movie. And even if it were, there's just too little of it.

I really think that Jet Li's talents are wasted when you try to use goofy camera angles to make it look like he's doing superhuman feats. The man is practically superhuman already. I think you're better off showing off the amazing things that he can do rather than focusing on trying to make him look like a cartoon. I'm sure that his work in the movie was very demanding, but it just didn't come off as too impressive on the screen in my opinion.

And way too much lion dancing.
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Not as good as the other 3 Jet Li OUATICs.
sycho31614 August 2001
In the third film, Jet Li goes to Beijing to visit his father. Doesn't have as much good fighting as the other 3 OUATICs that Li is in, but Xiong Xin Xin plays a great Clubfoot Seven. Worth seeing only if you really like the OUATIC series (like me). 3/5 stars, I'd have to say the best part and most hilarious is Aunt Yee teaching Huang Fei Hong english, which is of course only funny if you understand and watch the cantonese/mandarin version, not the dubbed.
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A very good film, highly enjoyable.
Grahame-23 February 1999
An extremely enjoyable and fun film. Xin Xin Xiong, Jet Lee and the other actors perform incredible martial arts stunts, including the obligatory fighting scenes with Lee looking startled at his weapon's rapid disintegration.

Overall, a reasonably good plot and a very interesting and fun film to watch.
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Not all as it seems!
streen20001 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I know that there have been a lot of reviews deploring the relatively lower standards of fight choreography, plot, etc. of this third installment. Yet of the 4, this was the movie that left the deepest impression on this humble reviewer - I remember being moved to tears after watching this as 12 year-old. I do understand, though, why other reviewers might have panned this one - it's much easier to understand tsui hark's intentions from the perspective of someone brought up in a more... "Chinese" environment, so to speak.

The theme song of the series (the one with the drums and Chinese-trumpets and people chanting "ahhhh... ahhhhhaahhhahhaahhahhh..." - yes, don't you know it) is about a man who wants to become a hero and win glory and honour - he calls others to join him in his quest, and sings of a fire burning in him that is "brighter than the sun" - an example of the sort of nationalistic, patriotic tradition that is very much ingrained into mainland-chinese culture (how much of it is part of a communist government's propaganda-package is anyone's guess). The character of Huang Fei-Hung is the embodiment of all the values inherent in The Patriot: a man unafraid of standing up to oppressive powers (foreign or otherwise) and fighting for the masses. This theme is emphasized throughout the series, and never so well-depicted as in Part III. ***Spoiler*** This episode ultimately ends tragically, as Wong realises that in fighting to "save face" and win honour for his people, he has in reality failed them. As such, the film (in a somewhat didactic approach) deviates from the stereotypical kung-fu-hero-kills-all-the-baddies-and-saves-the-day ending in an attempt to teach its audience just what it really means to fight for your country - that it isn't just scrabbling for some abstract, pedantic bragging rights, but to be prepared to make sacrifices to bring about change that is real and good.

For those who just want to watch some chop-socking action, catch the first film. But if you're looking for some insight into the source of Chinese nationalistic fervour, and what drives a man to put everything at stake for family and country, this really is one of the essentials.
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