An unusual sort of prequel to the influential 1978 Hong Kong martial arts comedy Drunken Master, starring Jackie Chan and Simon Yuen, Chinese import True Legend, from respected fight choreographer and filmmaker Yuen Woo-Ping, arrives Stateside following a fairly disappointing theatrical run in Eastern territories, and it’s fairly easy to understand why. A bloated period piece epic that features a generally nice blend of CGI-assisted blood-letting and fantastical, Matrix-y punches in which people fly through support beams and stone fixtures, the movie never gets past or over the limits of its wooden, stilted set-up, and then, finally and damningly, wears out its welcome with a plodding and entirely unnecessary final act that offers none of the catharsis its makers seem to imagine it does.
If True Legend was trim and less possessing of a grim self-seriousness, it would work a lot better. But if, as it seems, part of the main intent or purpose of True Legend was really to explain why its protagonist turns to drinking in the first place (and hence is the “Drunken Master”), there are much better and faster ways to arrive at that conclusion than screenwriter Christine To concocts. After a fairly engaging and streamlined opening 75-80 minutes, the film winds on in excruciating fashion, charting his downward spiral — the sort of thing which would be compressed into a montage or pair of scenes in a more conventional American action movie — over the course of 35-plus more minutes. This allows for plenty of time for the movie’s endangered little kid to cry out “Father, stand up!” roughly 45 times, and said dad to eventually dispatch a goon squad of ‘roided-out Caucasian wrestler-types in his characteristic drunken/breakdance-style, all while the late David Carradine pops up in a pointless cameo, and yells things like, “Finish this Chinaman, once and for all!” None of this adds one iota of emotional heft or significance to the film.
A poor excuse for a legend explained, and too swollen and narratively unfocused to qualify as a martial arts treat outside of the most devoted and hardcore Eastern action genre demographic, True Legend proves that some backstories are perhaps best left untold and unexplored. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Indomina, R, 114 minutes)