The Last Hero in China
1993, 100 min. Directed by Wong Jing. Starring Jet Li Lien-Jie, Sharla Cheung Man, Leung Kar-Yan, Gordon Lui Chia-Hui.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., July 28, 1995
From Wong Jing, the director of the endearingly silly Jackie Chan vehicle City Hunter and the God of Gamblers series, comes this equally ridiculous picture, a goofy send-up of the legend of real-life Chinese patriot Wong Fei-hung. This 1993 film, which was made after chopsocky icon Jet Li Lien-jie angrily left Tsui Hark's Once Upon a Time in China film series to produce the delightful Legend of Fong Sai-yuk, finds Li quickly returning to his most famous role -- this time to poke fun at his own stoic performances as Wong in Hark's epics. The plot is ludicrous -- something to do with a whorehouse opening next to Wong's martial arts school, a corrupt law enforcer in cahoots with a group of evil monks, a bunch of foreigners selling poisonous medicine to kids, a nasty slavery ring, a rigged lion dance contest, a political assassination, and, well, I think you get the idea. Despite the scattershot design of the script, the picture still manages to be entertaining with its blend of goofy humor and great fight sequences. Other pluses include the numerous references to the Wong Fei-hung films of old: Dreadnaught star Leung Kar-yan returns to the role of Wong's most famous student, Leung Fu; while Gordon Lui Chia-hui, who starred as Wong in Lui Chia-liang's classic Martial Club, has an extended cameo as the dastardly head monk. The best however, is saved for last, as Li pays tribute to Jackie Chan's seminal Wong Fei-hung parody Drunken Master with a wonderful fight sequence that affectionately echoes the “drunken boxing” acrobatic techniques to be found in that 1978 kung-fu classic. Watching Li stumble his way through the various drunken fighting styles, combined with some inventive wire work, makes for a breathtaking climax. All in all, this is an entertainingly stupid action comedy that never takes itself too seriously -- as evidenced in the picture's notorious set-piece in which Wong dresses up as a chicken to do battle with a group of baddies disguised as a centipede -- but fails to reach either the same level of excitement as Hark's Wong Fei-hung series or the easygoing comedy of Li's two Fong Sai-yuk pictures. The original Chinese title roughly translates to the far more memorable, and appropriate, Iron Rooster Vs. the Centipede.