Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wu Dang (2012)

I heard about this movie a couple months back from the guys over at FarEastFilms. I was interested because the last time I saw Vincent Zhao was in True Legend (2010) but I don't remember thinking much of the film. Too bad, because I really liked him in Fong Sai Yuk (1993) where he plays the villain opposite of Jet Li. (This movie was also known as The Legend when they brought it over here to the States) Vincent was really good as the villain and even goes on to take over the role of Wong Fei Hong in the Once Upon a Time in China sequels after Jet Li leaves the series. To be honest, those were probably the only 3 films I've seen him in and I can barely remember True Legend.

Here is Zhao throwin' down with Jet Li!

I have to say that I was interested in the film but I wasn't particularly excited. There have been a ton of Chinese "martial art epics" lately that I haven't much cared for. Movies like Fong Sai Yuk had a ton of Wire fu in it, but the fight choreography and the way the camera filmed it was absolutely awesome. Nowadays there's a lot more CGI and slow motion shots (Reign of Assassins), which really pisses me off because it really dilutes the fight scenes. Instead of rapid fire punching or kicking, we get slow motion shots of people who look like they're in a ballet and not a fight. Where's the bone-crunching sound of fist hitting someone square in the face? Softened by the classical music as feathers fall all around the dancers.

Not all movies with slow motion shots are terrible, Donnie Yen's Ip Man is an example of a movie that seamlessly integrates the fast-paced action sequences with the slow motion usually used towards the end or on a particular move to emphasize the impact that it had. The ENTIRE fight should not be in slow mo, that just takes away any impact the slow motion might've had on the scene. Check out this fight scene between Donnie Yen's Ip Man and a tough fighter from the North:

Getting back to the movie at hand, I thought this movie was going to be an all out Kung Fu epic but turns out to be more about a Chinese Indiana Jones/National Treasure guy (Zhao). He attends a martial arts tournament with his daughter, so he can sneak around the Wudang mountains in search of seven hidden treasures. One of these seven items is said to hold the power to cure his daughter of a rare disease that she inherited from her mother. Determined not to lose his daughter like he did his wife, Zhao teams up with a girl who seems to be in search of the seven hidden treasures as well. So, to spoil this pile of monk turds, he eventually collects the legendary items and it turns out that they really are magic. One of the Taoist priests turns out to be evil and uses the seven magical items to power himself up. Of course, Vincent Zhao fights for the life of his daughter and single-handedly defeats the magically powered priest... who ironically seemed to be able to whip Zhao in a fight even BEFORE he obtained his god powers.

Dafuq is going on here?!? Is that a "Spirit Bomb" from Dragon Ball Z??

Overall, I say skip this one completely cause it's just not worth the time. Throughout the entire movie, it didn't seem like there was anything to do with magic then it suddenly goes full-on total CGI at the end. The fight scenes were boring and the "drama" that was supposed to be there from his daughter dying just isn't interesting. In fact, it's downright ridiculous how no one can recognize this guy as he's running around collecting the seven magical items. Aside from pulling up his scarf to "mask" his face, he's basically just running around trying to steal things and getting into bad slow mo fights whenever somebody tries to stop him. Sometimes, after trying to steal something in an all black disguise, he'll be seen by people with a mask around his neck that looks awfully suspicious. I get the feeling that they're not even trying anymore at this point. 

One of the best action films of all time!
Chinese Kung Fu movies are really losing their edge to harder hitting Thai films and there are even some pretty good Korean martial arts films. The Raid: Redemption was an Indonesian/American product and that was awesome to the MAX!!! (Without a doubt, one of my favorite pure action movies of all time!) Even The Man with the Iron Fists was a much better Kung Fu movie and that was made by a rapper from a group called The Wu Tang Clan!!! The plot for this film was weak and the execution was totally sloppy. Want to see a good Kung Fu/National Treasure-type movie? Check out Jackie Chan's Chinese Zodiac instead, that's how you REALLY make a movie about collecting items while incorporating Kung Fu into it. Okay, so there aren't as many fight scenes since JC is starting to get up there in age, but his one fight scene towards the end is better than every fight scene in Wu Dang put together. In fact, ANY of the movies from that series (Armour of God, Operation Condor) are better examples of this type of movie.