Film Review: True Legend

Yuen Woo Ping, the Chinese martial arts choreographer for The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill, returns as director, after 15 years, in True Legend, opening Friday. True Legend balances neck-slicing kung fu battle scenes with a strong story about two men raised as brothers, Su Can and Yuan Lie—one good and one evil.

While nowhere close to The Matrix’s big-budget action sequences, this film may still appeal to martial arts fanatics who enjoy watching blood and sweat. It also helps that the cast is a lineup of Chinese martial artists and MMA superstars: Vincent Zhao (Su), Andy On (Yuan), Guo Xiaodong (Ma), Gordon Liu (Old Sage), Cung Le (Militia Leader) and the late David Carradine (Anthony) in his final role.

The movie follows Su, who begins by leading an impressive invasion on a stone fortress to rescue a prince. The battle easily showcases the actors’ martial arts and acrobatic skills. Vincent Zhou, who plays Su, has trained in martial arts since an early age, and effectively portrays the anguish that is felt by the complications that inevitably overcome his dysfunctional family.

After mastering the power of the five venom fists, Yuan seeks revenge on his foster father (Su’s biological father) for killing his real dad. To add to the conflict, Su married Yuan’s sister, and they have a child together, Feng. It is clear that family is an important part of the story’s underlying theme, but each character has their own definition of who should be a part of their family.

The film devotes an unnecessarily long act to Su’s practicing of the martial art: the drunken fist. This culminates into the final showdown between Yuan and Su and ultimately decides the fate of the family—after which the film dives into a seemingly needless epilogue-esque ending filled with WWE-like MMA fighting, drunken fist kung fu and Su finally realizing his new purpose in life.

True Legend opens Friday, May 13, at Pearlridge Consolidated theaters. Subtitled. R-rated. 116 minutes.