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Hark Tsui (pronounced Hark Choi) is a legendary and prolific Hong Kong producer, writer and director. He may have had somewhat more misses than he has had hits, but it doesn't matter because his hits have time and again fashioned Hong Kong cinema for the last 2 decades. He gave us the fantastic Time And Tide (2000), the ground breaking Once Upon A Time In China series, the superb Chinese Ghost Story films. He was closely involved in the early careers of Jet Li and also John Woo for whom he produced the Beter Tomorrow series and the now classic Killer, The (1989). No one else in Hong Kong has such an impressive resume and so when i saw this film on Netflix by complete chance, the first collaboration between him and Jet Li, i wanted to check it out. Well, let's say this is not one of the hits. It's a terrible movie, even if you are a fan of either man.
The story is completely irrelevant and stupid. Jonny (Jerry Trimble) is some crazy white guys with the most horrible mullet you have ever seen. Maybe that's why he is so angry all the time. He wants to build himself an empire as a martial arts teacher. This guy is a nut case and goes around town, challenging all the martial arts masters around to prove that his school of combat is the best. He is a psychopath brute who will stop at nothing to make his point. One night, he goes to Uncle Tak's store and destroys everything and beats up the old man. No worry because Jet (Jet Li), the nephew, is fresh off the plane and will save the day. What follows is a series of pointless fights culminating into the final battle to death between Jonny and Jet.
There is very little in this movie that is redeeming. Even the fights are average, with only a few really cool moves and intense sequences. You can see that this movie was done very cheaply, probably over a weekend. The acting is horrendous. The sound is horrendous, with out of synch dubbing most of the time, even in the original Chinese DVD which i got to see. This is a bad film plain and simple. Don't be fooled by the marketing hype on the US DVD. If you are looking for the defining first couple of films of Jet Li's career, you'll have to turn to other Tsui Hark fares such as the pretty good Swordsman 2, The Legend Of The Swordsman (1991), or the truly seminal Once Upon A Time In China 1 (1991).
- Laurent Hasson