“Girl power” is what this historical action film is all about. Produced by Jackie Chan, the film is actually decent thanks to its core female cast and battle sequences.
Set in the waning days of the Song Dynasty of ancient China, General Yang Zongbao (Richie Ren) has gone into battle and mysteriously disappears. His wife, Mu Guiying (Cecilia Cheung), fears the worst and her suspicions are confirmed when the general is declared dead by the emperor. Yang and Gu’s son Wenguang (Xiao Ming-Yu) is put in charge of the army, which is hopelessly outnumbered by the Western Xia Army.
However, rather than give up, Mu and matriarch She Taijun (Cheng Pei-Pei) decide to round up the fourteen Yang females and help Wenguang in battle. When the overzealous Wenguang nearly falls into a trap due to his impatience, Mu takes charge of the army. This will set off a chain of events that will either make or break the Yang army as they fight not only for revenge, but for honor as well.
While this film will not have the epic capacity of John Woo’s RED CLIFF (2009), this is still an enjoyable action film. After nearly a decade away, Frankie Chan (THE PRODIGAL SON) returns to the director’s chair and co-wrote the film while Jackie Chan serves as a producer on the film. What is interesting is that this film is a remake of the 1972 Shaw Brothers film THE 14 AMAZONS and thus, the film’s core cast is all female and for the most part, it does work here.
Making her return to film after a five-year hiatus (which included motherhood) is Cecilia Cheung in the role of Mu Guiying, the widow of General Yang. Cheung may not have been the ideal choice to play the role, but somehow she manages to pull it off decently. What drives the film is that each female lead character is trained in a different style of combat. The likes of Kathy Chow, Li Jing, Yang Zi-Yong, and the returning Yukari Oshima are just some of the composition of the female ensemble while the legendary Cheng Pei-Pei plays matriarch She Taijun with a costume that resembles that of Jay Chou’s “God of Wushu” character from TRUE LEGEND (2010).
The film also makes good use of the juxtaposition of flashbacks and current events in the film. We learn through these flashbacks, the relationship that existed between Mu and Yang. Mu is seen first as an arrogant female warrior who looked to challenge anyone and when she loses to General Yang in a duel, an arranged marriage between the two is set. It takes time for Mu to eventually warm up and fall in love with the general. This shows a sense of tameness in Mu before she is forced to revert back to warrior mode in the film.
Action-wise, the film’s battle sequences are well done. With a stunt team that included the legendary Fung Hark-On, Mang Hoi, director Chan, Ng Ban, and Zhang Hai, they are well shot and edited. There is some wirework and at times, it has the feel of perhaps a wuxia pian. Nevertheless, the weapons work is quite well done along with some nice hand to hand combat action often seen in this subgenre of Chinese action films.
While it may not be an epic film, THE LEGENDARY AMAZONS is quite an enjoyable action film with a good cast and nicely shot battle sequences. Definitely worth at least a rental.