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10/10
One of a Kind Wushu film...
A_Different_Drummer18 November 2016
Simply put: It is hard enough to find a really spectacular film, one that stands out above the others.

It is even harder to find one which, the moment you see it, you know there will be never be anything like it again because it is a "one of a kind." This is the real deal. The opening scene is the eastern version of the opener in A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE 2005 (also, not by coincidence, one of my all time faves) and the remainder of the arc is very similar, allowing for the cultural variations.

Donnie Yen arguably gives one of the most nuanced performances of his career, Takeshi brings back memories of Peter Falk in Columbo, and the beautiful Wei Tang remains one of the most overlooked Asian actresses.

A caution: if you go on a Wushu binge and approach this as just another Kung Fu spectacular, you will get annoyed and confused.

If you take the time to savour the plot development and the subtle performances, you will have the time of your life.
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7/10
Intrigue and action along with magnificent martial arts and breathtaking combats
ma-cortes12 May 2013
One of the best modern Wu Xia movies with overwhelming combats and spectacular scenes . Being well set during China's Imperial dynasty , and spectacular and colorfully directed by Peter Chan . It deals with a sinful martial arts expert called Liu Jin-xi (Donnie Yen) wants to start a new tranquil life, only to be hunted by a determined Detective called Xu Bai-Jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro of House of flying daggers) who investigates his dark past and his former master (Wang Yu) . Liu lives almost anonymous until two robbers enter their village to rob a provision store and defends himself and kill them . Later on , the village is attacked and in order to seek vengeance Liu uses his extraordinary martial art skills .

This classic Wu Xia flick displays lots of violence , action filled , thrills and fierce combats . This luxurious martial arts film was marvelously filmed with good production design , colorful cinematography and breathtaking scenes . The flick displays lots of violence, action filled , thrills and fierce combats . This is a colourful, China set and quite budget movie ; leave no cliché untouched , though the fighting are magnificently staged . The picture is full of tumultuous sequences with frenetic action , surprises , fierce combats and groundbreaking struggles . Amid the grandeur of the scenarios and impressive fights is developed an intrigue about a villager who bears dark secrets and stubborn Detective exploring his hidden side using C.S.I methods . The picture is starred by three myths of Wu Xia and Chinese martial arts such as Donni Yen who starred "Seven Swords" , ¨Hero¨ , ¨Yip man¨ saga , Takeshi Kaneshiro who acted in ¨Warlord¨ ¨Chungking Express¨, ¨Red Cliff¨ and Wang Yu who starred classic Kung-fu movies for Shaw Brothers as "The Chinese Boxer" , the 1st real movie non-swords, only bare hand and kicks fighting, a new genre in HK action movies , he gained super stardom status as the "One-armed Swordsman" and ¨ Master of flying guillotine¨ ; Wang paved the way for the future Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan for such a genre.

The motion picture was compellingly directed by the Chinese Peter Ho-Sun Chan who has established himself firmly as a distinguished filmmaker/producer whose last 4 films have generated millions in China box office . In as early as the nineties, Chan already scored a string of critically acclaimed box office hits, including his award-winning directorial debut ¨Between Hello and Goodbye¨ (1991) and following ¨He's a Women, She's a Man¨ (1994) and ¨Comrades, Almost a Love Story¨ (1997), those produced by his own United Filmmakers Organization (UFO), among which Comrades has won a record 9 Hong Kong Film Awards and was named one of the Ten Best Movies of 1997 by Time Magazine. In 1998, Chan directed his first Hollywood picture ¨The Love Letter¨ for Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks SKG and starred by Spielberg's wife : Kate Capshaw. In 2000, he established Applause Pictures dedicated to quality co-productions aimed at audiences across Asia. In 2005, foreseeing the ever-growing market in China and its fast expanding audiences, Chan decided to take on the China market with the musical extravagance Perhaps Love (2005), Shot entirely on location in Mainland China, it became one of the year's top-grossing films in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and received a record 29 awards. Chan next directed ¨The Warlords¨ (2007) with Takhesi Kaneshiro and produced Derek Yee's ¨Protégé¨ (2007). The two films were the two highest grossing Hong Kong-China co-productions of 2007. And of course , this successful ¨Wu Xia¨ (2011) . Rating : Above average . The motion picture will appeal to Donnie Yen fans , he's a complete show .
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Almost a Masterpiece - thanks to Donnie and Takeshi
changmoh20 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Wu Xia" may not be the martial arts flick in the "Ip Man" vein but it grips us right from the start with an intriguing plot, rich characterisation, breath-taking locales and top class performances. This combination is rare in a Chinese movie, let alone a kungfu flick. But then again, "Wu Xia" is not just a kungfu flick. It is also a detective mystery with CSI elements, and a family/clan drama with well-developed characters. The one downside to this effort by director Peter Chan is its supernatural ending that borders on the absurd.

The plot is set in 1917, and Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen) is a paper-maker in a small village where he lives with his wife Ayu (Tang Wei) and their two sons. However, when a couple of bandits try to rob the local store, Liu intervenes and accidentally kills them in self-defence. Or so it seems until detective Xu Baijiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) investigates the botched robbery. While Liu claims to be just the average guy, Xu (who is also a physiology expert and acupuncturist), suspects that he is hiding a deep secret, and goes all out to uncover the truth behind Liu's identity. Xu's dogged persistence threatens the peace of the typical clan settlement and even his own life.

The first thing that grabs us is the movie's detailed setting - in an idyllic valley with quaint thatch-roof homes that have cattle grazing on its roof. Scripter Aubrey Lam defines the social structure of the times in a scene when Xu asks Ayu to show him the back door. "There is no need for doors in a village like this," she replies.

The movie's 'CSI touches' are intriguing and even educational. As Xu probes into the deaths, we get replays of the action with illuminating insights into Xu's detective powers. There isn't much wushu-tye action in the early segments but the probes are nevertheless fascinating as Chan adds narrative details and character backgrounds to story.

The cast is top notch, with Donny Yen and Kaneshiro verbally sparring against each other. One can safely say this is one of Yen's best portrayals as a caring husband and father trying to escape a sinful past. Kaneshiro gets our sympathy as the obsessive cop who will risk anything to find truth and justice. His demeanour reminds me of Peter Falk's Columbo. Tang Wei (of "Lust, Caution" fame) personifies the rural housewife who is fearful that Jinxi would abandon her - just as her first husband did years ago.

And of course, it is nice to see veteran Wang Yu (of "One-Arm Swordsman" fame) in a cameo as a crime boss, and fighting another one-arm swordsman himself. All in all, Wu Xia, which was one of the highlights at the 2011 Cannes Fest, is a refreshing change to the usual kungfu thrillers. Now, if Chan had rendered a more credible ending, it would have been a masterpiece. (limchangmoh.blogspot.com)
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Fusing strong character drama with thrilling action, 'Wu Xia' is a unique martial arts epic that boasts Donnie Yen's best performance since the 'Ip Man' movies
moviexclusive17 July 2011
Despite starring in seven movies over the last three years, Donnie Yen has had difficulty trying to top his iconic performance in the 'Ip Man' movies. But as the enigmatic paper-maker in a small idyllic town with the unassuming name Liu Jinxi, Donnie has finally delivered a performance which equals that of 'Ip Man', one that showcases his best as a dramatic actor and as a martial artist.

For this, Donnie has to thank director Peter Ho-sun Chan, who makes his return to the director's chair after a four year hiatus since 2007's 'The Warlords' for an intriguing and innovative spin on the period action epic genre. Indeed, while its title may suggest similarities to Ang Lee's 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' or even Su Chao-pin's 'Reign of Assassins', Peter Chan's 'Wu Xia' is less akin to a typical 'wu xia' movie than to Tsui Hark's 'Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame'.

Like 'Detective Dee', this film unfolds like a procedural- the investigation here headed by one smart 'bespectacled' county detective Xu Baijiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), sent to the town where Liu has resided over the past ten years to investigate the death of two wanted criminals killed 'accidentally' in a brawl. Xu's methods are scientific, and his superior knowledge in forensic science leads him to suspect that Liu is more than who he says he is. After all, Xu surmises, how can the lowly and unassuming village person Liu defeat two highly skilled martial arts pugilists?

The first half of the movie is essentially a battle of wits between Liu and Xu, as the former attempts to conceal his true identity that the latter so doggedly pursues. But more than just a cat-and-mouse game, the script by Aubrey Lam (who also wrote 'The Warlords') exhibits surprising depth in setting up these two opposing characters- Liu is the man with a dangerous past who has eschewed his former life in favour of a simple and peaceful life; and Xu is the law enforcer whose own traumatic experience has led him to respect the law over humanity.

Aubrey's story raises a number of moral dilemmas, in particular whether a man can truly start anew without having to atone for his past sins, and whether there is a place for humanity in a world governed by laws and regulations. This is at the very heart of the complex intertwining relationship between Liu and Xu, and a fascinating one which Peter Chan explores with panache. There is no hero or villain between the two per se- rather, both are simply pushed up against each other by their past and the circumstance by which they had made their mutual acquaintance.

This attention to character and drama means that fans of Donnie looking for some action will have to be patient. Instead, Peter gives room for Donnie to flex his acting chops, and Donnie's method for understatement works perfectly for a subtle and nuanced performance of a man fighting to protect the life he has built and family he loves from his own destructive past.

Takeshi is a surprisingly good complement for Donnie, the former the source of the film's humour and wit with a droll Sichuan accent. The multilingual actor shares a nice rapport with Donnie, but he also shines when forced to confront his own moral assumptions about the wisdom of upholding the law without compromise. His character is not without his own demons, and Takeshi turns in a multifaceted performance that allows the audience to empathise with his predicament.

Nonetheless, Takeshi is mostly sidelined in the second half of the movie as Liu's past catches up with him. Action fans will be pleased with the introduction of gongfu legends Kara Hui and Jimmy Wang Yu, both of whom play characters closely- in fact intimately- related to Liu Jinxi's past life. By this time the action pretty much goes into overdrive, and Peter shrewdly leaves Donnie in charge. In turn, the latter, who also serves as action director, delivers some truly outstanding action choreography that is pretty much on par with the 'Ip Man' movies.

The highlight of this is no doubt Donnie's extended fight with Kara, which begins in the village's open square, progresses to a foot chase across the rooftops and culminates in a cattle pen where the confined space adds to the thrill of watching them go at each other with knives and later on pure fisticuffs. The climactic showdown here is between Donnie and Jimmy, and comes after a very late plot development which pays homage to Chang Cheh's classic One Armed Swordsman series (starring Jimmy). Paradoxically, while it certainly is thrilling to watch, Donnie's one-armed swordsplay somewhat pales a little compared to the sheer exhilaration of his two-armed fight with Kara.

Still, Donnie's work here as action star and choreographer is clearly at its peak, and the fight sequences here will probably go down as one of the best- if not eventually the best- that you'll find in a martial arts film this year. Peter Chan keeps the pace of the movie moving along with a thumping rhythm, so the film does not lose its momentum between these elaborate fight sequences- even though it does feel like two distinct halves.

Because of both cast and crew's excellent contributions, 'Wu Xia' is more than just another addition to the surfeit of period action epics that is bound to be a fixture in this Hong Kong- Mainland co-production climate. It isn't a 'wu xia' movie in the traditional sense of the genre, but the creative liberties that scripter Aubrey Lam and director Peter Chan have taken with the material are the very reasons why it stands high above its peers. That and of course the fact that us Donnie Yen fans here have been rewarded with his best performance since the 'Ip Man' movies.
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A Nutshell Review: Wu Xia
DICK STEEL19 July 2011
What's strongest in this film isn't the martial arts action sequence, or the much talked about Sichuan accent that versatile actor Takeshi Kaneshiro adopts in his role as a detective seeking to unearth the truth behind a peasant paper maker Liu Jun Xi played by Donnie Yen. Rather it's the art house sensibilities that director Peter Ho-Sun Chan fuses in the film that makes it a cut above the average martial arts movie, pretty much focused on characters, motivations, and plenty of drama about family and karma hidden behind an investigative narrative providing a more scientific approach to fantasy.

The opening shot establishes Peter Chan's intent to want to be different, with little nuances put into roles, and a painstakingly beautiful set design and art direction to introduce us to Liu and his family, with wife Ayu (Tang Wei) and two children, living quiet, almost anonymous lives until two robbers enter their village to rob a provision store, and Liu finding it hard not to lend a hand to a fellow villager in need. It's the classic top pugilist whose retirement plans of tranquility getting cut short no thanks to circumstances that spell trouble where trouble got attracted to them like bees to flowers, and for that innate chivalrous spirit to be unleashed, with expected consequences. Yes some quarters equate this to History of Violence, and to a certain extent, it undeniably does possess parallels.

Elevated to a folk hero in the village where praises get sung in his name, the detective Xu Bai Jiu (Kaneshiro) enters the scene for an autopsy and to examine the crime scene, only for his suspicion to be piqued that Liu may be more than meets the eye, perhaps even one of three most notorious wanted men he had been pursuing. Here's where the story shows off its flash of brilliance, with flawed characters providing added depth to characterization and story, keeping your interest level up as we discover how Xu's a little schizophrenic in his investigative approach, constantly communicating with his alter ego and we get to see some CG animated body internals sort of like the way Guy Ritchie treated his Sherlock Holmes, with dalliances to the question of is Liu or isn't Liu the powerful pugilist as Xu's investigations have made him out to be.

Takeshi Kaneshiro continues in similar vein with his Zhuge Liang character in having to form an uneasy camaraderie with his skilled counterpart, where in Red Cliff was with Tony Leung's Zhou Yu, here it's with Donnie Yen's Liu as investigations gets underway to try and coax something out of the latter. Yen has ample time producing some rarely seen acting chops thanks to a role that requires duality, and also showing he's no pushover when it comes to fighting in front of the camera, and taking on the directing responsibility to choreograph the action as well. And to balance the testosterone level of the movie, Tang Wei takes on the role of a demure wife who also bore some dark secrets from her past, but unfortunately this aspect remained largely vague and not as well explored, as is Kaneshiro's detective when he goes back to seek assistance from his estranged wife (Li Xiao Ran) in a one scene wonder/wander.

In a tale of two jarring halves suddenly remembering that it needed some cornerstone token villains, in come the legendary kung fu stars such as Wang Yu (the one armed swordsman being paid an obvious homage in this film), and Kara Hui who has seen a renewed lease in her career after an award winning turn on Ho Yuhang's film At the End of Daybreak. Both return to their martial arts roots which were hallmarks of their heydays, and it's really a pity how as villains they don't get much of a respect they deserve having to come back to the silver screen (especially for Wang Yu), portraying mean looking, ass kicking caricatures to give our heroes a run for their money.

Both were severely underutilized, but there is little doubt about their screen charisma when they finally appear to further the plot. Kara Hui was there solely for some of the set action pieces like a rooftop chase (not again), and between the two, it's of course Wang Yu who got the better deal portraying a Bane like brute, and I thought his heft with age provided plenty of gravitas and weight as the gangster chief who's not to be trifled with, providing the film a much needed climax and proceeding at breakneck speed toward the finale fight which pitted science against fantasy, in some ways how modern day mechanics trounced martial arts, though you get the idea employed here, the execution left much to be desired, since all it could elicit wasn't a sense of brilliance, but unintended comedy involving the much dreaded Deus Ex Machina, yet in some ways keeping in line with the notion of karmic retribution, albeit very literally.

Perhaps it was the weight of expectations that a movie titled Wu Xia would provide something more from an action front, and some may have gone to the extent to call this a redefinition of the martial arts genre through scientific methods and explanation. I thought that would really be stretching it, with big battles few and far between, the spotlight clearly centered on its story and characterization instead.
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Simply Put: Amazing. Glued to my seat.
michael-kordus17 October 2011
Awesome choreographed fight scenes, rich & deep characters and a great cast to boot, this is a must watch for any fan of the martial arts genre. Donnie Yen has yet another spectacular performance from the acting to the action. But I must say, Takeshi Kaneshiro does some show stealing of his own in his role as the sagacious detective. Suffice to say, both actors delivered riveting performances that kept me glued to my seat. What else can I say about this movie? Just watch it already. It's an entertaining take one man's desire to leave his violent past behind, and start anew. If you want drama, build up and great action then this is the ticket.
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7/10
Wu Xia
lasttimeisaw17 July 2011
"A Chinese version of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005)!", which is my immediate response off the top of my head during the viewing at a local cinema, ordainedly a deja vu even banal narrative does undermine the film itself. Also Wu Xia's ostensible propaganda is so-called "microcosmic Kung Fu", which in my opinion, fabricates a promising prologue, particularly leavens the appeal of the detective segments, Takeshi's character is noteworthy for infusing panache into his persistent waywardness, which sounds more intriguing than the hero- hidden-in-a-remote-village plot, unfortunately the mission is unjustly unfulfilled.

Frankly speaking, the overall quality of the film is above average, as Peter Chen's prestige laurels still waver on a high level. The technical job is amazingly done, the acupuncture specifications, the reconstruction of a minority people's village and some canny inventions such as the alarm clock, the ancient condom and the print apparatus are fun to watch, not to mention the ending, which aroused a burst of laughters in the cinema, I must say it is an unexpected and creative one, otherwise, the finale would be more blushing.

Donnie Yen (from the IP MAN franchise), is unquestionably the leading martial superstar in China at present, whilst Jackie Chan is aging and Jet Li put his priority on his charity career. At an abashed age of 48, being the red-hot Kung Fu star, I pessimistically assume that Donnie's heyday will not be protracted too long. This is Takeshi's the third time starring in Peter Chan's films after THE WARLORDS (2007) and PERHAPS LOVE (2005), this time, his thunder cannot be stolen. I am also surprised to see Tang Wei (the budding starlet in LUST, CAUTION 2007) took such a marginalized role in the film, an almost downplayed innocent wife, although solid, her only shining moment is curbed within one cry-scene, to me, it is an inexcusable misemployment. Other two weathered Kung Fu masters are Kara Hui and Yu Wang, as the main villains, both give admirable but a shade monochrome performances.

All in all, the film is a niche under my expectation, but after so many recent disappointments, to name a few, THE LOST BLADESMAN (2011), FIST OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF CHEN ZHEN (2010) (both under the belt of Donnie Yen), Wu Xia show how desperate we need some new blood to inject into the now overheated Chinese Kung Fu genre, which I do appreciate for its effort.
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8/10
Move Thee Reviews: A Fascinating Fusion of Different Genres
ken184820 July 2011
Before watching Director Peter Ho-sun Chan's latest movie, Wu Xia, starring Donnie Yen, I expected to watch a typical martial arts movie. Contrary to my expectations, the movie is a fascinating fusion of a detective story, forensic science, action, humor, politics and family drama.

Wu Xia is a gripping story about the dark side of human nature. There are several intriguing things that are worth nothing. First, Detective Xu Baijiu believes that the law is more important than humanity. His blind obedience to the law contrasts sharply with the corrupt officials accepting bribes, which is a political satire. Please note what happens to the villain at the end, which ridicules the unscrupulous legal system invented by humans. Second, the difference between humans and animals is highlighted. Please note that cows, horses, flies and worms are shown in the movie and respect for animals is emphasized. Moreover, in a fighting scene, Kara Hui's character can be seen through a cow's eye, which symbolically shows her ruthless character. Third, in some scenes, the candles glimmer in the darkness, which symbolically shows the struggle between good and evil in a human being.

Peter Chan and Oi-wah Lam have grasped the key to writing a good story. Indeed, three-dimensional characters are more important than fancy fight scenes, so they take their time developing the characters in the movie. Thanks to the capable cast, the well-crafted script, the restrained costumes and the breathtaking setting, most characters are lifelike. In the movie, Takeshi Kaneshiro gives the most memorable performance, considering his dual role as his good self and his dark self. Detective Xu Baijiu, whose biggest battle lies within, is torn between his conscience and his blind faith in the law. Also, his attempt to speak the Sichuan dialect is comical. As for Donnie Yen, he is charismatic and his action is well-choreographed. Still, he slightly underacts in the crying scene and the one in which he kills the butcher and his children. Playing ruthless villains, Yu Wang and Kara Hui deliver flawless performances. Their characters, albeit monochrome, look eerily menacing.

As for my suggestions for improvement, some insignificant details can be trimmed and Liu Jin-xi's change can be further developed. Despite these minor flaws, the movie grabs me from beginning to end, not only because of the adrenalin-pumping action, but also the well-developed characters that the audience cares about. Featuring a creative mix of different genres as well as a fine balance between drama and action, Wu Xia is so far the best Hong Kong movie I have watched in 2011.
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6/10
Solid but unexceptional
Leofwine_draca26 September 2013
DRAGON, a Chinese remake of Cronenberg's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE with added martial arts action, is a fine-looking film. The period setting is brought vividly to life and the plot moves at a fair old whack, always avoiding cliché in its exploration of a former gangster attempting to lead a decent life as an ordinary family man. Of course, it's a Donnie Yen film, so there are the inevitably lengthy and detailed martial arts sequences which are typically strong and help to lift the movie's entertainment value immeasurably.

Elsewhere, the material does feel a little strained at times and the story seems to fall apart as it progresses. The second half is noticeably inferior to the first, and the film seems to be merely treading water up until the final confrontation between anti-hero and villain. Still, the producers deserve kudos for casting martial arts star and genre icon Jimmy Wang Yu (completely unrecognisable these days, it has to be said) as the chief bad guy.

In addition, there's a serious and finely-tuned performance from Takeshi Kaneshiro as a detective investigating Yen's background. Kaneshiro's character is somewhat incongruous given the provincial nature of the rest of the movie but Kaneshiro can always be relied upon to deliver carefully mannered performances and his role here proves no exception to that rule.

Come the roll of the final credits, I was left feeling mildly entertained by the material, but also slightly dissatisfied, purely because the quality of the action isn't on par with the highs of IP MAN 1 & 2, FLASH POINT and other Yen classics. I've been spoilt by such films, and as a result Dragon felt a little lacklustre, more watchable as an interesting curio than a full-blooded fight flick.
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5/10
A Very Chinese Redemption
badajoz-120 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This is a Chinese martial arts film but aspires to something more meaningful - the cost of redemption from an awful crime. The main character is pretty familiar - ordinary peasant in two horse village, who somehow manages to overcome a merciless bandit in a one on one fight! Premise is familiar, but this takes some working out because it is brilliantly filmed so that the peasant does not look very capable, just lucky. But a brilliant detective is on his heels, and desperately searching for the truth. Of course, the peasant turns out to be a brilliant martial arts exponent (played by Donny Yen what would you expect?) who has committed horrific murders. Cue his old gang (with ruthlessly violent old father/leader in the van) find out and the scene is set for the final battle between father and son/ evil and maybe good.

It is a film that takes its time, with beautiful photography, fine acting, and an interesting plot that takes its time to unravel. The direction and action work very well. But it could do with a bit of 'go' at times.
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8/10
Absolutely delightful!
junktrashgarbage19 July 2012
I loved this! Kara Hui, Jimmy Wang Yu and Donnie Yen all give absolutely terrific performances, with Yen's perhaps being the best of his career. Lots of wire assist in the martial arts, but it works in the context of the film, and besides... Hui and Wang aren't exactly spring chickens, so its great to see them in anything, much less doing such fine work in such a fantastic film! Plus, as one or two others have noted, though there are martial arts in this movie, I would not exactly call this a martial arts film. Regardless, it is easily among director Peter Chan's best, Chan - of course - also being responsible for HE'S A WOMAN, SHE'S A MAN / COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY / the GOING HOME segment from THREE / and Jet Li's THE WARLORDS).

The film also stars Takeshi Kaneshiro. He portrays an investigator who humorously refuses to believe that it was simply accidental, bumbling, good luck that allowed Yen's country bumpkin, Jinxi (intentional wordplay?), to win out in a battle with two notorious murdering thugs. Instead, he believes Jinxi is hiding his martial arts skill (much as TV's Columbo would hide his intelligence), though each time he puts Jinxi to a cruel and painful test, the result is the same... Jinxi proves to be less than he seems, not more. But that's when Kara Hui and Jimmy Wang Yu enter the picture, and they too think that Jinxi is hiding his true identity, and they're willing to murder or maim his loved ones in order to force him to reveal his hand. And speaking of hands, there's a very nice homage to Wang Yu's ONE ARMED BOXER and ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN in the final chapter of this funny and dramatic film.
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7/10
A strange, almost surreal, yet dark mystery thriller laced with some great martial-arts sequences
dvc515922 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The advertising for this movie basically focuses on Donnie Yen once again going ballistic. You'd think he's had enough fighting by now, but never mind. The trailers are wrong. This is not an all out action/martial arts spectacular. It is, in fact, a dramatic and surprisingly very moody mystery thriller set in the not-too-distant past in China.

The beginning sequences show Yen as a simple farm man, a family man who does menial things to make a living. When foiling a bunch of criminals, Yen manages to seemingly accidentally subdue both of them. A quirky investigator (Takeshi Kaneshiro) soon arrives and is intrigued at Yen's seemingly innocent farmer.

Let it be said that in the first half of the movie, Donnie Yen was not acting as the wise-but-tough guy roles he is more famous for, but rather, as a happy-go-lucky farmer that is a cry away from Jackie Chan. The villagers are so happy that they even chant out their feelings. One would suspect comedy and lighthearted fare from this point onward. However, that is not the case. Peter Chan Ho-Sun tense-fully crafts the film away from that direction and starts veering into dark, dark territory. We're talking deep dark secrets involving a heinous, violent and brutal crime that gives off a dark, ominous atmosphere and a somewhat mean streak that continues from that point onward all the way until the end of the film. In fact the darkness of the movie overshadows pretty much everything, even the camera-work looks less colorful as the scenes progressed. Sort of like what would happen if Walter Hill made a Chinese/Kung-Fu movie. You'll get the idea.

During this change of pace, Yen completely transforms his character not into a tough guy, but rather, of a haunted, tortured soul. Yen's versatility as an actor really shines in this movie and I honestly think it is one of his very best performances. As a martial artist, no worries, Yen's still got the moves.

Takeshi Kaneshiro's character is an interesting one. His performance has an aura of quirkiness and yet, sadness, as the film progresses his character becomes ever more tragic and his once-aimless cause becomes justifiable. "Lust, Caution"'s Tang Wei has a supporting role that is basically a stereotyped character in all of this sort of films - the concerned wife. By that standards, she pulls it off well. The biggest surprise for me was seeing Shaw Brothers kung-fu stars Jimmy Wang Yu ("The One-Armed Swordsman") and Kara Hui ("My Young Auntie") on the big screen as the villains, and their fights between them and Donnie is an ironic tribute and homage to their famous characters (in Kung-Fu Cinema at least). Hell, this could very well be a Walter Hill-directed Shaws Brothers film for all I know.

Production value is top notch, especially the locations and cinematography, which were superb. The locations are shown in all of their glory and the camera nicely frames them without being to overblown. The action sequences were well-choreographed (a staple of Yen) but I can imagine some people wanting more action. The editing is nicely framed - the CSI-like flashbacks coupled with Kaneshiro's detailed monologue provides a fascinating view into human pressure points. The music is a refreshing trait for me - the score is too tense and somber and not melodramatic, although I never knew an electric guitar can be that effective in a period kung-fu film, sort of like Ry Cooder in Hill's "Last Man Standing", but then again...

The only thing I didn't like was the ending of the final fight - a near- literal Deux Ex Machina. (But even then I didn't see it coming at all.)

Overall, it is a strange, yet dark and moody, and definitely interesting gem in the Donnie Yen category. By no means is it bad, just somewhat offbeat, but the moody, gritty atmosphere of the film took me by surprise. It's solid stuff, this movie, but don't expect an all-out fight-fest. It's a mystery thriller, and a good one at that.

Overall rating: 70/100

PS: On the reason of mentioning Walter Hill, I find this film's atmosphere to be somewhat similar to Hill's films "Trespass" and "Last Man Standing", both very violent and gritty films with a mean streak. No really. You can feel the uneasiness when watching these films. I certainly did. On this film too.
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6/10
Good enough slow burner of a movie
KineticSeoul18 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
With a title like "Dragon" that has Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro in it. I was expecting some grand or epic martial arts movie, with lots of battles and fight sequences...That is what this movie is. So if your an audience member that is expecting a lot of fight sequences you might be disappointed. This movie is a bit of a slow burner that has a message. Which is about what is right, the law of the land or if humanity, empathy and redemption. And how sometimes your past can comeback to haunt you. The two main leads really work together as opposites that comes to an understanding. The story is nothing all that special and it has been done before, but I did like the execution and the direction of this movie. It's simple and yet it has enough to make it stand out for what it is. It's a forgettable movie, but it's still a good enough slow burner of a movie.

6.5/10
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8/10
CSI, China, Ching Dynasty?
Imhotep771 January 2012
This is a very interesting and different martial arts movie. Not revolutionary, per se, but it's innovative, exciting, and an original. I admit, with a title like Wu Xia, which means Martial Hero, I've a preconceived notion of the way plot lines should be unfolded. However, it doesn't follow the tried and true formula and even though I was entertained, I felt a little let down, at the beginning. The first half of the movie is basically CSI, China, Ching Dynasty. I thought it's pretty funny but it lacks a certain epic and mystical quality that good martial arts movies have. Then the second half of the movie complements the first half beautifully; it becomes more like a traditional martial arts movie. But what it lacks in innovation more than made up by the heart-pounding action set pieces. The movie is beautifully filmed, with unusual composition and gorgeous color. The score is unorthodox as well, it's almost like a rock score but not so modern that it becomes incongruous with old China. One small quibble, the stunt people are too easily spotted on many of the death defying scenes. All in all, highly recommended.
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6/10
Nothing is what it seems
An attack on a butcher's shop in a small rural area, unleashes all hell for those involved, the authorities and our screens.

The story unfolds after an police investigator becomes perplexed as to how an ordinary shop worker fends off an orchestrated attack by two ruthless criminals. Being unprepared to simply accept that the quiet family man, simply got lucky he tries to dig deeper and reaches a point where the revelations is more than he could even handle.

Beautifully made and nicely told, this a film with hidden might, where the audience goes from one surprise to another between scenes of true human warmth as well as spectacular fighting sequences. Yes, they go over the top but it is done in such a refined manner that you could forgive them.
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8/10
Not that much action
kosmasp20 June 2013
But when it "kicks" in, then it's more than amazing! Takeshi K. might have the more difficult role to play (though his versatility does allow him to do that), but Donnie Yen might be the real surprise here, going through a range of emotions. It's great seeing him doing those movies, something he might not have been able to do in America (so in a way it's good he stayed where he grew up).

Apart from Hollywood calls (or not), this movie does work as a crime movie too. The way it is shot and the voice over (thoughts) from Takeshis character do help. Takeshi is sort of playing the audience watching how everything unfolds. He still has his own back story of course. And he has his own issues. Which makes his character even more intriguing. You want action with a story? Here you go
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6/10
A bit slow
briancham19941 June 2020
This film is a bit different from other martial arts films. It follows an investigator in olden day China trying to figure out what happened. It has a lot of good action scenes but sometimes it feels too slow and drawn out.
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10/10
Redefines the martial arts movie genre
best_wells5 July 2011
one of the best martial arts movies I've seen in recent years, along with 2010 Reign of Assassins, have become two of my all time favorite martial arts movies. both Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro gave a very strong performance. I'd rate this as Donnie Yen's best movie in terms of acting, he's really improved a lot in just a few years, no wonder he's becoming such a mega star in Asia nowadays, it's movies like Wu Xia definitely help his career, of course some of the credit goes to the highly highly acclaimed director Peter Chan, who knows how to get the most out of his casts. This is such a refreshing movie for the martial arts genre, I predict this film will win a lot of awards next year, either Donnie Yen or Takeshi Kaneshiro will take home the best actor title.
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2/10
Not the Wuxia I was expecting
MondoX419 July 2016
I was intrigued by the original title, _Wuxia_, because some of the wuxia light novels. This movie turns out to be anything, but what I was expecting. I was expecting an action packed, fighting movie, because of Donnie Yen, but there was like only two decent fighting scenes. The movie turned out to be more of a crime, and mystery movie, like a Chinese Sherlock Holmes. It might be might fault, because this is what I think when I see Wuxia: The word "wuxia" is a compound composed of the elements wu (lit. "martial", "military", or "armed") and xia (lit. "honourable", "chivalrous", or "hero").

What made dislike the movie the most, is the incident with the main villain at the end. I was screaming at the screen, 'are you serious?'
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1/10
Clichéd, over the top disappointment from the man who made Warlords!
luke_bale8 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
After seeing Warlords and reading the reviews I was expecting something new and interesting to the Wu xia/martial arts genre.

What I should have expected was the normal clichéd, over the top characters. (Minor spoilers) Killer assumes new identity and tries to live peacefully with his new family, detective cuts off his own empathy using acupuncture. Nothing new, likely or realistic here but the parts are played seriously by the actors and who is ever disappointed by a martial arts movie lacking in an original story line.

Then we have the fight scenes, over the top trash, Donnie Yen makes another guy punch himself in the face so hard his teeth fall out, this probably happened before he flew into the air and attached his feet to the ceiling. Crouching Tiger had wire work but it also managed to have some amazing, realistic fight choreography alongside it. In Wu xia we have the standard rubbish you would see in Hero and House of daggers where wire and other special effects are used to make the unreal look real and failing in the attempt. (Another Spoiler) man has his heart stopped with acupuncture, cuts off his own arm then goes home to have a long boring drawn out fight scene with a fat bald man. Someone gets struck by lightning.

This is exactly what I have come to expect from Chinese cinema of late not to mention the hit and miss (mostly miss) master Donnie Yen. Because I had paid for the movie I kept watching and waiting for it to get better or show the reasoning behind its many shining reviews but of course it proved to be nothing more than something which could have been dreamed up by the 4 yr old character in the movie playing Yen's son. The only positives are the settings and look of the movie, don't waste your money!
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8/10
Excellent atmosphere but going nowhere
David_Tjahyadi7 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This started out as a very tense and psychological movie, with a mix of Chinese sherlock Holmes trying to solve mystery cases, and a few minutes onwards towards the middle we're having a shutter island moment, finished with a not so great but realistic (probably not) fighting scene.

All and all every bits of the parts holds their own, and it's a wonderful movie in terms of acting, Donnie's dad give a very menacing performance, and even the not so weak me still gasping when he holds his grandchildren towards the end, not sure what to expect.

Donnie's and Kaneshiro's complementing each other quite well in this movie, one the unpredictable cold with killer's instinct, the other with his own wit that could dismantle you in a sec, a detective with equally killer instinct.

Too bad the movie didn't pick on one of them and focus more, instead they try to swipe every single aspect which is too much to jumble and at the end too many loose knots are hurriedly tied.
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10/10
What a great mind spinner
blackmamba9997116 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Donnie Yen does it again in this mind bending detective thriller. A man who wanders into a village as a simple vagrant is accepted by the locals after a few years of settling down. Little do they know, that his past is as dark as the night itself. Donnie's character (Jinxi) is a self reformed serial killer. Once part of a clan called the 72 Demons. Their rituals played a part for most of the dynasties for those in power, but as with all emperor's changing their minds, are no longer needed for their services. Angered, they vowed to take revenge on all humans, because their philosophies, lead them to believe that all manners of people are beyond corrupt, and lower than animals. Jixi, (Donnie Yen) was on assignment with his clan to butcher local villages and burn them to the ground, until one surviving young boy called him by a simple name - (Sir). This revelation then led Jinxi to leave the demon clan and find his own answers to life's most difficult questions. But in the middle, is a brilliant detective who is called into Jinxi's adopted village because of two murders of would be thieves. The detective, Xu Bai-Jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) deduces that Jinxi, who helped protect the village is not all that he seems. With perfect clue finding, and evidence gathering, he finds that the man he has been interrogating is none other than the son of the master who leads the demon clan named Tang Long. Problems start to mount as the demon clan hears of tang's location. And now, the master wants him back in the fold. Yet the detective, who blinds himself in front of the law as a crutch now develops a small conscience and tries to help Tang escape the clutches of the master's grips. This film is by far Donnie's best to date. It has action, drama, fight scenes which Donnie himself choreographed, and twists and turns to make the viewer question whether or not Jinxi is really a cold blooded killer named Tang Long. And there were a few scenes which actually made me cringe when Donnie's character looked as though he was actually going to kill the detective at one point. If there was a psycho serial killing thriller in the future, Donnie could pull it off without a hitch. A perfect detective film. Not recommended for those under 14. Highly recommended to those who like this genre. Fantastic movie.
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6/10
Good fight scenes but quite slow at times
MickeyTheConstant28 September 2019
I really enjoyed the first hour of this movie with the detective trying to figure out whether the hero Yen is actually a villain but then it all got rather messy. Yen was superb as usual and the fight scenes were great but it was very slow at times and I found useless getting a bit bored. Not bad though.
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6/10
Beautifully filmed & acted movie - A History of Violence in China?
joebloggscity29 May 2017
The name of the film doesn't exactly help in explaining what this is about. Basically what we have here is a film that very much is derivative of "A History of Violence", a North American movie which was quite popular for anyone who may not have heard of it before.

What we have is Donnie Yen as our lead who is found out to not be the weak feeble countryman but is hiding a dark secret that may lead to danger for all those he loves. Takeshi Kaneshiro stars as the moral minded detective who opens up a pandora's box with his investigations into Donnie Yen's character.

Now this is a film that combines the beauty of big scale Chinese movies with some sublime martial arts choreography, wonderful to watch. Ridiculously good fun but sadly the movie does seem to fail in the last quarter or so, I just guess they didn't know how what to do after all the twists and turns earlier on in the film.

It's worth a viewing if you enjoy martial arts, but I feel it will appeal to many others too for the direction, settings, acting and suspense. It's a fine film but could have been much more. Enjoyable enough.
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7/10
( Hong Kong C + Movie ) My Ratings 7/10
Muhammad_Rafeeq28 April 2020
For martial arts film fans, the action here designed by Donnie himself are very satisfying and quite refreshing but don't expect an action-packed film because the emphasis here is mostly on the story and characters. There's not a whole lot in the first half but once the second half kicks in you'll be offered to some very good moments of martial arts choreography. Since SPL came out, Donnie's way of choreographing action scenes have seen alot of hype, praise and comparisons to other action stars and kept the momentum up in other films such as Flash Point (which is still his most talked-about work to date). Donnie has done pretty well in recent years as well with Legend of the Fist and proved himself to be as successful choreographing action in period action films as he does in contemporary action films with The Lost Bladesman. In this film, he shows us what he can do with martial arts choreography in correlation to the strength and visuals of storytelling, for which something new with the action has been accomplished. If there's one choreographer that has complexity, variety and overall creativity of another level today and keeps evolving his craft, it's Donnie
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