Wu Xia movie review

I am not such a fan of wu xia style movies, so did not expect something special from Donnie, but the reason why I watch this movie is because it was announced that it is the first real role of Donnie where he playes a really bad guy.

Wu Xia is a masterfully executed, action-packed martial arts movie from Peter Chan Ho-sun, who was promised exhilarating entertainment, but this is still a usual kung fu film full of fancy wirework, sometimes reminds Detective Dee and a lot of old asian flicks.

What is good about this film that Peter Chan gives the overworked genre a contemporary feel by wedding it with a detective story, continuing his study on the human condition, and in this case, on the theme of revenge and redemption. Wu Xia examines the moral struggles of a killer.

Donnie Yen plays Liu Jinxi, a papermaker who lives a peaceful life with his wife Ayu and their two boys in an idyllic village in China’s Yunnan Province. But his life changes after he accidentally dispatches two vicious thugs who try to rob a general store. Liu claims he only got lucky, but detective played by Takeshi Kaneshiro is not convinced and believes that Liu is a professional killer and a runaway member of the 72 Demons.

Talking about fight scenes choreographed by Donnie himself, this martial arts movie has three climactic fight sequences forsake visual stunts for close-range combat executed in a graphic, ferocious style, reminded me Romeo Must Die movie with Jet Li.

Note: the hurdle-race on the rooves reminded me Fast Five and Colombiana movies. Seems to me it is very popular in nowadays actions.

For martial arts fans, the appearances of the legendary Jimmy Wang, now 68, and the semi-legendary Kara Hui, now 51, in two memorable fight scenes in the second half bring a real heft to the movie’s action credentials, as well as providing an opportunity for a reference to Wang’s 1967 Shaw Bros. classic The One-Armed Swordsman.

The most complicated and intriguing character is Xu, for whom emotions can be controlled by acupuncture needles, and human compassion and repentance should never eclipse the law. Like Liu, the detective and off-screen narrator has to battle inner demons as the investigation gradually becomes his personal quest for redemption.

Donnie is an action hero and proves it again, but the star of this film is Takeshi Kaneshiro, who shines with his comic, slightly absurd rendition of the eccentric detective. He is a great choice for such directors like Peter Chan, who made films like Perhaps Love and The Warlords. But on my opinion he is not that kind of directors who can film a great action movie with outstanding fighting sequences. Yes, he can follow the style of Crouching Tiger or Hero, but maybe next time he will reach the heights of earlier wuxia classics.

The lush cinematography by Jake Pollock and the rock ‘n’ roll like score are highlights, but they don’t hide the fact that Wu Xia is mostly a period melodrama with a few fights to keep things interesting.