Friday, August 19, 2016

Rise of the Legend (2014)

Watching a film about Wong Kei-Hung requires a suspension of disbelief, because of factual embellishments or fabrications. However, against all odds, Rise of the Legend, which was sold as a reboot of the Wong Fei-Hung series for the twenty-first century, turns out to be a pleasant entertainment.

In 1868, during the reign of the Qing Dynasty, in Guangzhou, two criminal gangs vie for the control of the Huangpu Port: the Black Tiger and the Northern Sea. Whichever gang controls the port's activities and laborers gets money from British businessmen who care not about China's socio-political problems.

The Black Tiger's boss, Lei Gong (Sammy Hung), has been trying to off the Northern Sea's boss for years. One of Lei's recruits, Wong Fei-Hung (Eddie Peng), kills the Northern Sea's boss and gets promoted. This satisfies Fei-Hung's as his plan is to destroy the Black Tiger from within and he suspects that criminal organization from smuggling Chinese workers overseas.


Compared to films about Wong Fei-Hung from the 1990s with Jet Li or even Jackie Chan, Rise of the Legend is an upgrade on all levels. From a historical perspective, Hong Konger movie makers no longer dither to show how tough and violent life was under the Qing Dynasty. The film Rise of the Legend shows that wealthy (or brutal) Chinese exploited other Chinese with the blessings of a weakened imperial court and the British. We even see Wong Fei-Hung behead someone at the end of a fight and carry said opponent's head around. In the olden days in China, a chopped human head was seen as a fighting trophy and the proof of a kill.

As for the script, the film doesn't limit itself to just presenting a problem Wong Fei-Hung wants to deal with and a plethora of fight scenes. Most people would appreciate the fact that the scriptwriters try to present Wong Fei-Hung's past through flashbacks in order to explain how Wong Fei-Hung's past shape his ideals, his sense of justice and his personal idea about practising medicine. All in all, there is a back story that allows us to know Wong Fei-Hung as a person.

Despite its slick production value and its other qualities, Rise of the Legend can rub some people the wrong way. Because the film is a co-production between Hong Kong and China, it is in Mandarin even though it is set in Southeast China. Needless to state that region is demographically dominated by Cantonese people. Sorry, Cantonese people, the producers believe that money from Mainlander moviegoers who speak Mandarin weight heavily on the balance!

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin : China/Hong Kong (2014)
Length : 131 minutes
Genre : Historical drama
Director : Roy Hin Yeung Chow
Starring : Eddie Peng, Sammo Hung, Wang Luodan, Jing Boran, Qin Junjie and Angelababy

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