By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Well GO USA
Sept 17, 2019
Be prepared, humble students of Kung Fu League (功夫联盟)! This film is an enjoyable silly romp where real life and fictional legends Wong Fei-Hung (Vincent Zhao, Once Upon a Time in China), Ip Man (Dennis To, Wu Dang), Chen Zhen (Danny Chan, Kung Fu Hustle) and Huo Yuan Jia (Andy On, Black Mask 2) are plucked out of time to help manhua artist Fei (Ashin, Lead vocalist of the Taiwanese rock band Mayday.) have the courage to ask Bao’er (Madina Memet) out for a date. He’s had a crush on her for the longest time but his insecurities get the better of him.
One day, after being disgraced at work, he makes a birthday wish and before the masters know it, they land in modern day China and have to find this ne’er-do-well if they are to return.
Director Jeffrey Lau is a familiar enough name to fans of Chinese comedy drama. I enjoyed his efforts with the Chinese Odyssey trilogy. In this story, the historical moments and subplot of whom Thirteenth Aunt (Zhang Yao) loves more had me more invested than the main tale. While Wong’s plight is just as important as Fei’s, the quest for what things people would do for love shows Meatloaf is not alone. Just what they won’t do, well…
The comical nature of the second and third act outshines the drama. Fans of comic book driven narratives won’t be disappointed with the Scott Pilgrim style shenanigans. The diminutive secondary villain Qiao Shanhu (Hsiao Liang) steals the show. He represents a style of fighting deemed forgotten and this rabid fighter really sells the threat.
The sillier moments comes from the Lau’s perchance for humour. While not as polished as Stephen Chow’s style, I snickered more often than not when the three masters (including disciple) meet. When they discover how they are legends in modern times, no egos are really being fed. Finding Fei was not too difficult. Training him was very hard and showing the synchronicity going forward was tough.
This film is a throwback to the movies of the late 80s where the wire work and green screen is very obvious. While distracting, I mostly blew it off as a product trying to mimic the quality for its time.
The love story had the same feel as Masakazu Katsura‘s Video Girl Ai; even the meek have to accept the pain involved when that one true love comes your way. Though this tale is overshadowed by the silliness than truly emoting the feel of a standard Asian romance, at least the extra effort in closing off the tale at least made watching this film worthwhile.
3½ Stars out of 5
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