The Unity of Heroes does try to evoke the spirit of the "Once Upon a Time in China" movies (starring Jet Li), but sadly fails with both, story and action.
The choreography is vastly inferior despite Wenzhuo Zhao in the lead. The director chose to emphasize short-scene fantasy moves over actual martial arts skills. With that approach there's little need for a martial arts star like Zhao, but according to the credits the latter was highly involved in the production, filling more roles than just "actor".
If the fantasy wire-fu and similar actions were done proficiently, I might overlook the lack of sophisticated fight scenes, considering that "Once Upon a Time in China" had lots of wire-work, too. Unfortunately, all of those scenes show a significant absence of experience and accordingly look cheap and underwhelming, especially when compared to any of the vastly superior movies from the 90s.
Additionally, the editing of the movie leaves the audience with many scenes that don't explain how things happened, like a character suddenly being in a chained stranglehold. We won't know how his opponent managed to do that, because that scene was either cut or never even shot.
The story just isn't interesting enough either, right from the start setting up a plot that tries to do the splits between scientific horror and super-powered martial arts, without giving either any room to get at least intriguing.
Characters are forcefully inserted that are meant to provide drama without establishing why we should care about them other than "Look! It's a woman. And she's pretty. Don't you totally care what's going to happen to her?!".
Aside of that, the usual elements are added in small bits (never enough to flesh out any single one of them), as you would recognize them from "Once Upon a Time in China" or any big-budget Chinese action movie:
romance - comedy - sidekicks whose purpose is to make the protagonist look better - the rival who could be morally good but falls from grace - the dilemma of martial arts vs scientific progress - individual sacrifice for the greater good (the greater good bluntly being *China*, as usual) - the monstrously evil villain who plots against China (being a foreigner, as usual) - etc.
Again, it's due to the director's inexperience that none of those elements fall in place to provide good entertainment. It's just about barely enough to give an unassuming audience something to watch on TV on a lazy evening.
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