From action director Yuen Woo Ping, the fight choreographer who brought us the fight sequences in “The Matrix” (1999), the “Kill Bill” movies (2003 and 2004), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Hero” (2002), comes “True Legend.” According to the film’s press notes, Ping is “arguably the best action director in the world.” While I am not sure how one necessarily arrives at such a conclusion, I will say that “True Legend” definitely surprised me.
I will admit to being apprehensive about seeing “True Legend.” “Not another karate movie,” I said to myself, feeling as if I had seen already it. I knew there would be lots of quick kicks, punches, elaborate fight choreography and all sorts of martial arts weaponry. For the film’s first five to ten minutes my suspicions were confirmed. There were impressive martial arts moves complemented by quick cuts, all helped along by CGI (computer graphic imaging), special effects.
However, once the film settled in to the rhythm of its story I realized that I could not judge a book by its cover, or, in this case, a movie by its genre conventions. “True Legend” turned out to be an engrossing, epic tale of politics, family, good verses evil, and one man having to face and fight his demons, which exist mostly within himself. Yes, there were the expected fight sequences but the difference is that there was also a very human story behind them. The result was that the fight sequences were not the story, but rather served to enhance the storytelling. The script was written by Christine To, who, according to the film’s press notes is, “one of the most talented screenwriters in Asia.”
“True Legend” even had a fourth act, which I did not see coming. Most films have three acts, and, as viewers, we receive a feeling of satisfaction at the conclusion of the third act, in a good movie, that is. So after the third act of “True Legend” I thought it was over and that it had told a good story. Then there was this whole other section, which gave the film its epic heft.
“True Legend” has something for everyone. If you like fight sequences, “True Legend” delivers. If, like me, you are more interested in story, “True Legend” also delivers. There is action and a really good bad guy named Yuan Lie (Andy On). Yuan is an evil half brother who puts his sister, Zhou Xun (Ying) and brother-in-law, Su Chan (Vincent Zhao), through all sorts “tsuris” in medieval China. What is with these evil half siblings anyway? The movie also features what must be one of the last film appearances by the late actor David Carradine.
“True Legend” opens on May 13 at the Regal E Walk 13, 247 West 42nd Street.
“True Legend,” director Yuen Woo Ping 2011,
Indomina Releasing, 116 minutes, rated R