1994, NR, 93 min. Directed by Yeun Woo Ping. Starring Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., July 1, 1994
Hong Kong's reigning queen of action films, Michelle (Supercop: Police Story III) Yeoh, toplines this fun, period martial arts film, unique in its stylistic approach to both violence and sexual politics. Yeoh essays the role of Yim Wing Chun, a real-life historical figure who created the film's titular kung fu style. The picture's thin plot involves Wing Chun's befriending of a down-on-her-luck widow whose innocent beauty drives the town's men into a frenzy, leading Wing Chun to wonder whether or not she's traded in her femininity for her position as the top fighter in town. Things get complicated when Wing Chun's childhood sweetheart (Iron Monkey's Donnie Yen) comes into town, accidentally mistaking the widow for his ten-year-old lost love, setting a series of comic relationships in motion. A troublemaking gang of sex-starved men is on hand to set up the fight sequences, but the heart of Wing Chun revolves around the theme of what really makes up a strong woman, and the answers the film provides are considerably different from other female action pictures: Not a James Cameron testosterone-driven superbitch, nor a fetishistic male fantasy a la La Femme Nikita, Yeoh has created a true feminine superhero, as well as one of her most memorable performances to date. Veteran director Yuen (Drunken Master) Woo Ping is a master at handling the many kung fu brawls (which are easily the best out of any of Yeoh's pictures), but he maintains a light mood throughout by keeping bloodshed at a minimum, making this one of the very few martial arts movies in which no one is killed. A welcome and refreshing change of pace for period action flicks.