The Kung Fu Cult Master
Directed by Wong Jing. Starring Jet Li Lien-Jie, Chingmay Yau Suk-Ching, Samo Hung, Richard Ng, Sharla Cheung Man, Leung Kar Yan. (1993)
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., July 14, 1995
Warning: Don't dare take a bathroom or snack bar visit during this movie, or you'll find yourself hopelessly lost among the film's many complex story lines; in fact, if you should miss as much as the first 30 seconds, forget it -- you're screwed. One of 1994's big Chinese New Year films, Kung Fu Cult Master was originally designed to initiate a trilogy of films based around the characters introduced here, but both Hong Kong critics and audiences put a stop to that, being understandably disenchanted with this initial entry. An epic fantasy dealing with literally hundreds of characters, twisting subplots, and outrageous mythologies, the only thing truly consistent about Kung Fu Cult Master is the level of confusion at which the audience is kept throughout. Director Wong Jing (City Hunter) is notorious for working without a finished script and, while it often charges his work with a kind of loony spontaneity, here it serves only to drive viewers into maddening fits of frustration, as they vainly attempt to comprehend a senseless story that the director is probably making up as he goes along (although the film is based on a famous Chinese novel, this “adaptation” is reportedly a very loose one to say the least). Despite all this, there are some very appealing performances from the all-star cast (martial arts icon Jet Li Lien-jie and the charming Chingmay Yau Suk-ching are especially engaging), some entertaining anti-gravity wire stunts, a swell music score, and some breathtaking sets courtesy of the film's gonzo (by Hong Kong standards) production values. Nevertheless, Jing's energetic direction is ultimately crushed under the weight of too many unresolved subplots, and any film that puts together so many of Hong Kong's biggest and finest talents to produce such a chaotic, if somewhat entertaining, mess of this magnitude can only be considered a disappointment.