The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk
Rated R, 100 min. Directed by Corey Yuen. Starring Jet Li, Josephine Siao, Sibelle Hu, Michele Reis.
Like the equally legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fey-Hong, compatriot Fong Sai-Yuk was also partial to defending his kung fu-impaired brethren from the dishonest scoundrels that seem to infest Ching dynasty China (not to mention that both roles seem virtually created for the ever-impressive, though improbably named, Jet Li). This recent film chronicles the often hilarious adventures of the young Fong, as he teams up with his martial arts mother (Siao, the star of many Sixties chopsocky-fests) to save his dad -- who is a member of a secret society intent on overthrowing the iron rule of the Manchurians -- from execution by the current government. In the meantime, Fong is busily wooing the daughter of a newly arrived businessman, the boisterous Tiger Lei. All this we may have seen before in one film or another, but it's interesting to take note of the use of fully developed (not to mention “liberated”) female characters in this current spate of Hong Kong imports. Fong's mother is ideally realized by Siao, not only as a powerful matriarch of her “#1 Kung Fu family,” but also as a sympathetic leader of The Cause in her own right. It's a refreshing change of pace from years past, when women were frequently used as either cookie cutter stereotypes or the requisite damsels in distress, and it reflects well on the state of things in Hong Kong today. Sexual politics aside, The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk dazzles with some of the most breathtakingly choreographed fight scenes witnessed in years, including one show-stopper featuring a full battle waged atop the heads and shoulders of an awestruck crowd of gawkers. Now that's entertainment (if not much else)!
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