Saturday, September 24, 2011

still digesting

I just watched "True Legend" (rented via iTunes for a couple of bucks) which is the highly mythologized hagiography of Su Can, founder of the Drunken Fist School. I remember loving the preview trailer when I saw it, but I'm not quite sure what to think of the movie. There were some spectacular fight sequences-- veteran readers of this blog know I'm a fight choreography junkie-- but the film didn't really gel for me. Part of the problem is that I've never enjoyed those late-1800s/early-1900s Chinese-versus-Westerner fight scenes, like the one that takes up most of the end of the film: the presence of the Westerner spoils the mythology.

Among its other flaws, the movie went overboard on special effects, it underused two international stars (David Carradine and Michelle Yeoh), it featured some cringe-inducingly corny moments, and it had an annoying child star in the role of Su Can's son. In some respects, though, the movie was a treat: the choreography was faithful to old-school kung fu flicks, the story was a classic revenge tale, and there were some moments of magic thanks to Gordon Liu, who played a sort of cosmic version of the white-eyebrowed Pai Mei character he portrayed in "Kill Bill: Volume 2."

Still, the movie's virtues couldn't make up for its deficits. The main conflict-- between Su Can and his brother-- was left unresolved (Wikipedia says Su killed his brother, but I'm not so sure), and unlike when I saw "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," I had relatively little emotional investment in the characters. The sappy portrayal of Su Can didn't help: one scene had the master, defeated after a fight against his brother, sobbing into the camera with his mouth full of rice. The scene was supposed to arouse our sympathy or pity, but it came off as unintentionally humorous. Su Can proved to be a weepy sad sack later in the movie, too-- a far cry from the noble general he had been at the very beginning of the film. Perhaps that was the filmmakers' point: the creator of Drunken Fist had to fall far before he could invent that style of fighting. If so, they made their point too well.

The more I think about this film, the less I'm inclined to recommend it. Its heart is in the right place, but the overall execution is lacking. If you want to watch "True Legend," see if you can do it for free. And only if you truly have nothing better to do.



Bratfink said...

You know, I hate it when I dislike movies. I feel it's time I can never get back. Thankfully, I've only had a few of those.

I'll avoid this movie.

I never missed a Bruce Lee movie when I was younger. I can't watch them now--it breaks my heart he died so young.

But I must say that 'Kill Bill' is one of my fave all time movies.

How do you feel about Godzilla?

Kevin Kim said...

Are you talking about the "Godzilla" with Matthew Broderick, Hank Azaria, and Jean Réno? I enjoyed the special effects, but thought the story needed a major overhaul. Best moment in that movie: Jean Réno impersonating Elvis to pose as an American.