Sunday, 13 July 2008

Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

(Screenshot courtesy

Jet Li plays the legendary Wong Fei-Hung, who with his Kung Fu school is struggling against the imperialist oppression in late 19th century Guangzhou, at a time when many Chinese were lured away to do slave labour in America. With only kung fu to match the imperialist guns, how will the Chinese culture survive the age of aggressive colonialism?

The film is quite complex (for a martial arts film), but suffers from a few tedious stereotypes, mainly in the form of some of the villains and, not least, the love interest cousin Yi.

Martial arts:
Plenty of amazing Kung Fu here. The ladder scene has become legendary, and the intro with the training session on the beach is truly beautiful.

Without cousin Yi, this could actually be a quite good film. But as Wong Fei-Hung's love interest, she is a very, very stereotypical character, who has to be saved from the classic sexual assault several times.

Hunk factor:
Jet Li's righteous and non-violent character makes him very sympathetic.