Could wushu expert and film star Vincent Zhao be the martial arts version of Indiana Jones? While the film has its moments, the film suffers from a lackluster finale.
Zhao plays professor Tang Yunlong, who is a collector and analyzer of rare precious artifacts. When he is asked to sponsor his teenage daughter Tang Ning (Josie Xu) in an upcoming tournament in the Wu Dang Mountains, he accepts. However, he has more than just the tournament in mind. There are seven precious artifacts located among the Wu Dang Mountains and Professor Tang intends to get each of the treasures.
However, he soon learns he is not the only one after the artifacts. A young woman, Tianxin (Yang Mi) is after one of the artifacts, a rare sword, because it once belonged to her ancestors. While Tianxin and Professor Tang ultimately decide to team up to collect the artifacts, Tang Ning befriends local monk Shui Heyi (Louis Fan), who is chosen to represent the temple yet he knows no kung fu. Under the guidance of Abbot Xie (Henry Fong), Heyi begins to learn “sleeping kung fu”. However, when Tang Ning reveals a dark secret, and an old enemy of Professor Tang seeks revenge, all hell is about to break loose at the Wu Dang Mountains.
This film truly had potential as a martial arts version of Indiana Jones. While many consider Jackie Chan’s ARMOUR OF GOD (1986) the Hong Kong version of the series, this may have had the chance to be the new millennium Chinese version. One of the pluses of the film is the presence of wushu expert turned actor Vincent Zhao, who has recently made a comeback in a lead role with Yuen Woo-Ping’s TRUE LEGEND (2010). While Zhao truly has the martial arts skills, for some strange reason, he seems a bit incapable of taking charge when it comes to a lead role and this film continues to prove it. Yes, he is a good martial artist, but he pretty much has the film stolen by the film’s female lead, Yang Mi.
Yang Mi pulls it off quite decently as Tianxin, whose sole purpose is to retrieve an artifact that once belonged to her family. She uses deception and martial arts to her advantage and in the midst of everything, slowly falls for our professor. Josie Xu, best known for her gender-reversal role as Stephen Chow’s son in CJ7 (2008), is quite likable as Tang Ning, the professor’s teen daughter who is a fighter and acts more like a sister to her new friend Shui, played by kung fu wunderkind Louis Fan. What is funny is that Shui’s mother constantly wants her son to marry and feels Tang Ning is the perfect candidate. While there may be some of that little flirtacious mode between the two, it is clear their relationship is more of a brother-sisterly style relationship.
In charge of the action sequences is Hong Kong legend Corey Yuen. Most of the action sequences have a taste of wirework, as this is somewhat of a kung fu fantasy film. Surprisingly, Josie Xu and Yang Mi look quite good in their fight scenes. As mentioned, Vincent Zhao is quite a good martial artist and while he uses wirework for more difficult kicks, he holds his own for the most part. However, the climatic battle is quite a let down. One of the top new kung fu actors, who played a legendary wing chun master, is pretty wasted in the finale, which is full of ridiculous CGI effects that just makes the whole thing look ridiculous.
WU DANG has some pretty good moments, but Vincent Zhao lacks the charm of being a lead actor, and the finale is quite bad and disappointing. However, if you do like Vincent Zhao and even Louis Fan, you may want to rent this. Just be warned if you do rent the film.
martial arts tournament • treasure hunting • Vincent Zhao • Wu Dang (2012)