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Hong Kong/China/USA 2006
produced by
William Kong, Buting Yang, Jet Li, Ronny Yu for Hero China International, Beijing Film Studio, China Film Group, Wide River Investments, China Film Co-Production Corp
directed by Ronny Yu
starring Jet Li, Shido Nakamura, Betty Sun, Dong Yong, Paw Hee Ching, Qu Yun, Nathan Jones, Brandon Rhea, Anthony De Longis, Jean Claude Leuyer, Mike Leeder, Jon T.Benn, John Paisley, Collin Chou, Masato Harada, Zhao Zhigang, Samantha Buck, Jacky Heung, Jason C.Lin
written by Chris Chow, To Chi-Long, Christine To, music by Poon Hang-Sang, special effects by Menfond Electronic Art and Computer Design, action choreography by Yuen Woo-ping

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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China, the beginning of the 20th century: After seeing his father (Zhao Zhigang), a wushu master, defeated, Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li) vows to never again lose a fight - and once grown up he has become the undisputed wushu master of the region ... but with his success, he has also become vane, and a bit of a drinker. Ultimately, all of this leads to him killing a fellow wushu master in an unnecessary fight in which he also thrashes the restaurant of his best friend Nong Jinsun (Dong Yong) - upon which the other master's student kill his family. This makes Yuanjia lose his will to live, and he tries to drown himself but is saved by blind girl Moon (Betty Sun) and her family, ricefarmers in rural China, who take him in without any questions and treat him like one of them as long as he helps in the ricefields.

In the country, Yuanjia has learned to become a better person, but ultimately he just has to return to the city to reclaim his throne as wushu champion against western strongman Hercules O'Brien (Nathan Jones) - which he does even with the help of Nong Jinsun, who has seen the change in Yuanjia. Together, the two found a sports federation that soon grows strong in all of China - much to the dismay of all occupying forces, who soon challenge Yuanjia to a four-on-one match, in which he has to defeat four opponents from all corners of the world or ... well or lose, and lose face, too.

Yuanjia has no problems to defeat his three Western opponents, but when he goes against Japanese Tanaka (Shido Nakamura), he is poisoned behind his back and starts dying during the course of the fight. But Tanaka is a man of honour and has found respect for Yuanjia - a respect that is mutual - and in the end, he declares Yuanjia the winner despite everything, only moment before Yuanjia dies ...

Sure, this film features superb action sequences, but as much could be expected from veteran action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, its direction is incredibly smooth, but as much could be expected from Ronny Yu, plus the whole thing looks incredibly polished, but a high budget has seen to that ... still, the movie is actually rather a failure on a quality level, and its main fault is its incredibly old-fashioned and conservative screenplay that totally lacks all nuances and all character development beyond the obviuos (and disappointingly predictable). Add to that Jet Li, who is of course an incredible martial artist (which he ably demonstrates in Fearless) but not all that much of an actor (which the weak script demands) and you are left with a clichéd, forgettable piece of Kung Fu cinema, that seems to be terribly out of date in 2006.

Not really worth your while.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD