Once Upon a Time in China V
Directed by Tsui Hark. Starring Cheu Man Check, Mok Sui Cheung, Rosemund Kwan, Kent Cheung.
Sandwiched in between his far more ambitious Green Snake and The Butterfly Lovers, Hong Kong trendsetter Tsui Hark found the time to continue his popular martial arts saga with this latest chapter that, while not up to the level of the previous films in the series, functions well as a fast-paced crowd-pleaser. A non-stop roller coaster ride of gravity-defying action sequences and light comedy, Once Upon a Time in China V continues the adventures of the heroic Wong Fei Hung, once again essayed with dry wit by Cheu Man Check. This time out, Wong and his students lock horns with a group of vicious pirates pillaging the countryside and taking advantage of the disorder caused by the war raging between China and eight foreign invaders. A romantic triangle is on hand to provide some comic relief, but it's the slam-bang action that will attract audiences to this picture, and this installment more than delivers the chopsocky goods. From the rain-soaked opening combat at the rice factory, on through an incredible set piece in the pirates' treasure cave, to the climactic gun battles and kung fu brawls on the streets of Fu Shan, Once Upon a Time in China V enthusiastically serves up more than enough inventive action to keep the fans happy. On the down side, the series is wearing a little thin, and Hark occasionally gets carried away with some annoying comic relief. One scene, which finds our heroes all dressed up in silly beards, ranks as the worst moment in the entire series, not to mention a few bizarre errors in logic, no doubt caused by the frantic shooting schedules to which these pictures are subjected. Nevertheless, the film still works, and Hark continues his tradition of weaving some sly political commentary into all the mayhem, which leads to a particularly satirical and clever epilogue. Certainly not the best of the series, but a fun, swashbuckling ride all the same.
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