10 June 2006 | ChungMo
Technically brilliant martial arts
This is a strange film in HK movie history. It's possibly the last "traditional" Shaw brothers film, released a year after the film studio closed it's doors. In fact there are no scenes shot in HK at all. Nearly everything is on location in Mainland China. It's also the last Liu Chia Liang film working with his Shaw crew of cameramen and technicians. It's one of the first HK and Mainland co-productions and the first time Jet Li worked with anyone other than Mainland film crews. Jet Li has been unusually frank about his unhappiness with the work habits of the HK crew, director Liu included.
The story is clearly from HK as Jet Li gets into situations that would have been considered unacceptable in a Mainland production at that time. He plays a mischievous kung fu monk with an agenda for revenge against an evil warlord. He meets up with a girl with the same agenda but she's disguised as a boy which fools everyone but the audience. Many, many fight scenes with a generous helping of lion dancing.
The film is thematically the style of Liu's previous films for the Shaw studios right down to the woman dressed as a man plot device. If the story was a little bit more substantial perhaps this film would be as well known as Liu's other classics. It's easy to imagine replacing the entire Mainland acting company with the Shaw regulars. The camera work is in the Shaw style but with the added benefit of gorgeous Mainland landscapes and famous landmarks. The action is classic Liu Chia Liang choreography with a Mainland Wu Shu twist. The mass action scenes are exceptional.
Great action, Jet Li playing a comic character, excellent photography. Recommended.