I Better Write This "Wu Xia" Review Before The Writing Arm Gets Chopped Off

Posted 12:55 PM October 13th, 2011 by Senh Duong

Peter Chan’s “Wu Xia” is Donnie Yen’s best film since “Ip Man.” It might not be the fight-fest that fans expect from Yen, but it’s a visually striking film that engrosses with its unique take on the martial arts genre and entertains with Yen’s wuxia-style choreography.

The first element of the film that impressed me was the visuals - the cinematography and production design. I saw landscapes and living areas in ancient China that I hadn’t seen in previous martial arts epics.

“Wu Xia” is also sprinkled with little details of life in ancient China - like how paper was made in ancient times, how food was prepared, and what animal parts were used as contraceptives.

The film takes its time to let the mystery unravel. Yen’s character Liu Jin-Xi is a family man supporting his wife and two kids with a job in a papermaking shop. When two formidable thugs try to rob the shop and get killed in the process by the unassuming Liu, a detective (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is dispatched to town to investigate. From here, the film uses forensics to show which martial arts strike was used and what its effects were on the fallen robbers. It resembles an episode of a forensics show on Discovery Channel, but instead of analyzing guns and bullets, it’s using CGI to break down deadly kung fu moves.

There are only three fight scenes, but each of them satisfies. Yen’s choreography here is fast, powerful, and more importantly clean - you won’t see him swinging nun-chucks wildly like he did in “Legend of the Fist.”

I’m more and more impressed by Donnie Yen’s fight choreography. He can handle both realistic modern day fights like those in “SPL” and “Flashpoint” and more stylized fights in ancient martial arts epics like “Wu Xia” and “The Lost Bladesman.” His fight scenes have definitely gotten cleaner since working with director Wilson Yip and fight choreographer and martial arts legend Sammo Hung. One of the knocks on Yen before he hooked up with Yip and Hung is that his hand-to-hand techniques tend to be sloppy.

It’s good to see Yen peak during his later years and finally working with the best directors in the biz. Because of that, we get great films like this.

“Wu Xia” grossed over $26M in China when it was released in the summer. The Weinstein Company bought the North American rights and retitled it “Dragon.”

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