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Year: 2003

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Mega Star / Media Asia
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1
Mandarin DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

Director: Marco Mak Chi-Sin
Producer: Tsui Hark
Action: Ma Zhong-Xuan
Cast: Sang Wei-Lin, Zhao Zi-Zhon, Zhang Hong-Jun, Ni Jing-Yang, Teng Jun
The Skinny: The generic Rocky storyline of Xanda won't turn heads, but there is a refreshing low-budget feel to this action drama. The actors are neither impressive nor embarrassing, and the action can be a little over-edited. Still, this type of story has undeniable appeal, and the film can be decently watchable.
by Kozo:

     Tsui Hark produced this action drama, which utlizes a cast of unknowns and a rather non-photogenic Shenzen setting to tell a familiar genre tale. Sang Wei-Lin is Qiang, a champion wushu fighter from the country who decides to leave his small town roots and head for the big city. Eventually Qiang becomes a contestant in the fighting ring, where the big thing is Xanda. A relatively new martial art similar to Thai Kickboxing, Xanda is hip among the teeming Shenzen urbanites. Qiang originally doesn't intend to become a Xanda fighter, but a run-in with Xanda champ Zhao (Teng Jun) lands Qiang's buddy in the hospital. Qiang needs money to pay the medical bills, and Xanda pays well. The decision seems to be a total no-brainer.
     Sadly, the road to Xanda champion status is not as easy as Qiang would hope. Since he's already a rural wushu champ, Qiang has the not-unplausible notion that he should do okay. Sadly, Coach Tieh (Zhang Hong-Jun) of the local Xanda academy has no such faith in Qiang, and gives him menial, frustrating tasks instead of ass-kicking instruction. The meaning of all this seems somewhat Karate Kid-like, i.e. learn to pull weeds and soon you'll be owning in the ring. However, Qiang initially lacks that patience and Tieh lacks any of Pat Morita's cuddly disposition. Qiang eventually charges into competition instead of Tieh's son Lung (Zhao Zi-Long), which proves disastrous. Meanwhile, Qiang spars with a tough wannabe singer/barmaid named Ning (Li Jing-Yang), and somewhere underneath this generic exposition there's supposed to be some actual characters.
     Surprisingly, Xanda does seem to possess actual characters. While given to typical situations and types, the characters do appear to walk, talk, and interact like human beings would in the big, bad world. Everyone chases their dreams, but at the same time fears the committments that life requires. Among these potential committments are the obligatory relationships (Ning and Qiang fall in love but waver up until the final reel) and that pesky thing called perserverance of will. Qiang never competed in any championships since winning at wushu, and doesn't intend to sully his personal record. It's only because he needs the money that he jumps back into the ring, but what then? Will he continue to learn Xanda, challenge the champion, and prove that he's not afraid to lose? Hell, this is a sports movie—what do you think happens?
     When Xanda finally hits its final twenty minutes, we get genre clichés by the dozen. There's a training montage, an obligatory "going after the girl vs. going to the fight" conflict, and more obvious plot devices than can be easily explained. This shift is usually enough to kill most sports movies, and Xanda falls into that trap by bypassing many established conflicts for a quick montage of Qiang racing to the ring. Qiang and Tieh's personal issues seem to disappear, and Qiang apparently masters the mysteries of Xanda in virtually no time at all. Given the generous amount of attention paid to Qiang's initial foray into the world of Xanda, and his deepening relationship with Ning, the quick-fix montage can only seem too convenient.
     Still, Xanda possesses enough minor positives to make it potentially worthwhile. Besides the decent character development, the low-budget feel is refreshing, and even helps compensate for the overdone genre clichés. The actors (three of whom are actual Xanda professionals) are neither impressive nor embarrassing, and at the very least don't stop the film cold with their obvious acting inexperience. Plus, this type of Rocky story has undeniable built-in appeal. Who doesn't want to see someone rise up and take on the hunky champion? The fights can be a little over-edited, but they're staged with dramatic flair and good impact. Director and ace editor Marco Mak moves the film along efficiently, such that the unavoidable platitudes (Tsui Hark, who co-wrote the script, has never been incredibly subtle) and leaps of logic don't really register. Xanda is not a film for popstar chasers or those looking for the next Iron Monkey, but for what it is—a low budget Rocky clone with complete unknowns—it's really not that bad. (Kozo 2004)

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen