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Review: True Legend – Su Qi-Er (2010)

Directed by: Woo-ping Yuen | 115 minutes | action, drama, history | Actors: Man Cheuk Chiu, Xun Zhou, Michelle Yeoh, Xiaogang Feng, Andy On, Luxia Jiang, Chia Hui Liu, Ka-Yan Leung, Will Liu, Jay Chou, Xiaodong Guo, David Carradine, Conan Stevens

True Legend, or Su Qi-Er, is set in China during the 19th century, where the sympathetic and humble Su (Man Cheuk Chiu) as a general of the Qing dynasty fights side by side with his stepbrother Yuan Lie ( Andy On). Not much later, this stepbrother turns out to be a bitter, hateful despot. Su’s son and wife Yuan Ying (Xun Zhou) are kidnapped and Su is seriously injured. As the story progresses, Su has to re-train but also has to find herself again. This sounds like the typical story of the hero who has to work his way up to defeat the villain at the end of the movie. Not really original. There is also little logic in the story at the end of the film – where you would normally expect the end of the film, a new subject is suddenly tapped,

Besides the main character Su, the cast consists of many famous names. For example, the role of Sister Yu is played by Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, who is known for roles in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’. The also features Chinese pop star, director and actor Jay Chou – playing the role of the Wushu god. A nice detail is that towards the end of the film a role has also been reserved for David Carradine (he played the role of Bill in ‘Kill Bill’). This would also be one of his last roles before his death in June 2009. There is also a small role for Chia Hui Liu (he also played in ‘Kill Bill’, where he plays the roles of the master Pai Mei and Johnny Mo). – he plays the drunken bearded companion of the Wushu god.

In the scenes we clearly see the expertise of the director Woo-Ping Yuen. While he has also played in many action films in the past, he is mainly known as an action choreographer, collaborating on ‘Kill Bill’, ‘The Matrix’, and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, among others. Enough experience in that area. The action scenes therefore look flashy and smooth, using many different effects. Slow motion images alternate with accelerated images, and it looks good as a result. The fight scenes, which take place in many unique locations, are clearly the strongest point of the film.

The locations are original and beautifully made. The place where Su is fighting the Wushu god, for example, is a large temple-like building, adorned with large creepy heads. The images of this look very good. Unfortunately, this is skewed in relation to other scenes where the decor is less elaborated – it doesn’t look very realistic everywhere, and the decor sometimes seems to be simply stuck behind. As is not uncommon with this type of film, the motto ‘everything can be broken’ applies and it does – the only function of the furniture and decorations present seems to be that it must be broken. For fans of the real fighting spectacle where the story is secondary to the action – in this of a good level – this is an excellent film to digest. But it doesn’t get much further than this – the story is too simple and the characters too stereotypical for that. Unfortunately, the well-known cast cannot change this fact.

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