1 September 2013 | bob the moo
Poor plotting hurts the film even if the action is occasionally pretty good
Dai Xiaoyao may have his alias as the title of this film but very early on the robber who gives to the poor gets poisoned by the dastardly Wang and is incapacitated on his way to death's door. This leaves him a bit of a supporting character for the most part, particularly at the start where he is carried to try and find the only man who can cure the poison – Dr Lu. Wang has the same idea though and tries to prevent the treatment, but although Lu has no love for the robber in particular, it is his duty to heal Dai no matter what.
As usual with these films I was left wondering if I was watching a bad edit when this film started by launching me right into the action after some brief scenes of robberies. Before we even really meet the title character, he is dying from his wounds in order to trigger a plot where the group of characters must move to find the cure and encounter swordfights along the way. As a story it is pretty poor and I found myself being bored by even the occasional scene that wasn't action, mainly because I didn't find the plot engaging or thrilling. It seemed written to serve a purpose and it shows. The action is reasonably good although Dai's illness seems to come and go to suit the plot; one minute so weak he can't stand, next throwing people through the air like ragdolls. The skills of Lu are more convincing and I preferred the action when it was him and his daughter Wen Fang as they didn't have so much silly wire-work. The action is solid but not amazing and I think part of that was the excess but also the plotting not really giving me a reason to care too much.
The cast are mixed. I liked Mien Fan playing Lu and I found Ching Lee's Fang to be likable and attractive. The guy playing Wang was OK if hammy but the guy in the title role didn't work for me – he was hampered with this coming/going illness that he couldn't sell and his presence suffered as he focused so much on that.