The Legend

Finished The Legend with Jet Li. Made the same year as City Hunter, this is visually a far-superior film. It’s actually quite beautiful–Cory Yuen has a gift for composition, sometimes making nice use of the wide-angle lens, tilted angles, low angles, low-tilted angles.

There’s a great deal of humor as well–and it’s much better than the humor in City Hunter, though I find the latter’s more endearing.

Fong Tuk is the father of Sai-Yuk (Jet Li), who displeases his father to no end. The father is a bit stern–and it’s clear within the first 20 minutes or so that Fong Tuk alternately beats his wife and woos her with love poems. His wife, Miu Chiu-Fa, is probably the best thing in the film. She’s played by the marvelous Josephine Siao, who I understand was a big star in 60’s Cantonese comedies and sword-play films.

It’s hard to explain the plot, but it’s a bit like this: the Manchu emperor is worried about being assassinated. The Red Lotus Society, a real underground resistance movement, haunts his dreams. Knowing that a list of its member exists, he orders that it be found so that the Society can be wiped out.

The first time we see Jet-Li in action is in a track and field competition. Needing a fourth runner in a relay, Sai-Yuk asks a girl, the daughter of the rich and powerful Tiger Luk, to be the fourth runner. She’s smitten with Sai-Yuk, and of course they win the relay.

Meanwhile, Tiger Luk (who wishes to endear himself to the emperor), plans to marry his daughter off to the winner of a kung fu competition. Miu Chiu-Fa, dressed as a man, named Fong Tai-Yuk, enters the competition and wins. But it’s not Tiger Lui’s daughter who is won, but a maiden posing as Tiger Lui’s daughter. She falls hopelessly in love with the victor, but he (she) disappears. Tiger visits Miu Chiu-Fa, looking for find Tai-Yuk. She and Sai-Yuk (dressed as a girl) insist that Tai-Yuk died and was cremated. But Sai-Yuk is quickly exposed and captured (Tiger thinks Sai-Yuk is Tai-Yuk). He is brought to Tiger’s home to marry Tiger Lui’s daughter, but the real daughter wants nothing to do with Tai-Yuk because she’s in love with the boy who asked her to join him in the relay, Sai-Yuk.

Well, you get the idea. It’s a comedy of errors. And it’s quite good. Tong Fuk discovers that his wife and son have created a big mess and leaves–saying he must keep an appointment. The mother and son follow, and soon discover that Tong Fuk is actually a member of the Red Lotus Society and, more than this, the emperor’s minions have found him.

So now it’s father, mother, and son against the emperor’s minions. And the action sequences really pick up. A nice moment comes when the emperor’s main dude (played by Vincent Zhao) and Jet Li face off in a nice stick fighting sequence. In the stand-off, the minion says “I see your stick is too short to win,” to which Jet Li replies “if yours were harder, it wouldn’t bend like that!” Ba-boom ting! It’s actually a great scene.

Another comic scene follows, and again Josephine Siao shines. But the final action sequence, the scene of Sai-Yuk’s father’s execution, is the best of all. Vincent Zhao versus Jet Li.

Great stuff, but I think I like City Hunter better.

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