Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Once Upon a Time in China Review

I can't say I'm a huge fan of martial arts movies.  I have not seen too many of them and I normally like my movies to be well acted and shot.  The stereotypical martial arts movie is neither.  When Darren picked this one for Wednesday movie night, I was very skeptical.  Darren is known for his "interesting" taste in films and I thought I'd be in for a "treat" that I would immediately pan in this web log.  I admit it, I was wrong.

While this movie does have some of the aforementioned stereotypical problems, they are not bad enough to engulf the movie.  It is actually a very deep tale of a Chinese folk hero who sees his world slipping away from him.  In this, it is a lot like the Last Samurai (a movie I really like, by the way).  It is quite long (2.25 hours) but I never felt like it was dragging at all.  There were times when I was a bit confused but I think this may have been due to me missing a subtitle or the inevitable loss of meaning in a translation.  That is a big problem with films from other cultures.  But overall, this movie does not fall into that trap.  And, speaking of subtitles, a big reason why this movie did not get so cheesy was the fact that it was subtitled rather than overdubbed.

Finally, the fight scenes.  I should have known that, with Jet Li in the starring role, the fight scenes would be very good.  While there are obvious wire maneuvers and trampolines, I did not mind that.  I have yet to see a truly realistic martial arts fight scene because they do not exist.  The ones in this film were entertaining and well choreographed.  They also used just the right amount of slow motion for effect without relying on it for the "cool" factor.

I would recommend that you see this movie.  Even if you are not a martial arts fan, it will give you a good taste of the Hong Kong action genre without forcing you to watch something bad.

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