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Legendary Amazons

Legendary Amazons

Cecilia Cheung surveys the battlefield in Legendary Amazons.

Chinese: 楊門女將  
Year: 2011
Director: Frankie Chan Fan-Kei
Producer: Wang Tianyun, Jackie Chan
Cast: Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Richie Ren, Liu Xiaoqing, Cheng Pei-Pei, Xiao Mingyu, Kathy Chow Hoi-Mei, Chen Zihan, Jin Qiaoqiao, Xiao Mingyu, Ge Chunyan, Lin Wei, Yukari Oshima, Li Jing, Yang Zitong, Yu Na, Liu Dong, Zhou Xiaofei, Wang Ti, Zhao Qianyu, Wu Ma, Grace Yip Pui-Man, Fung Hak-On
The Skinny:

Legendary Amazons is unconvincing, uneven and yet somewhat entertaining thanks to its copious and sometimes wacky action. An unimpressive action drama that amuses in its sheer sloppiness. For bad or good, director Frankie Chan is seemingly stuck in the early nineties.

 
  Review
by Kozo:
Based on the same stories behind Shaw Brothers classic The 14 Amazons, director Frankie Chan's Legendary Amazons stars Cecilia Cheung - and that means trouble before even seeing the movie. If you must know right away, the film is simultaneously unimpressive and entertaining, but back to Cheung: the former Mrs. Nicholas Tse is a publicity nightmare bar none, what with her past scandals, constant presence in tabloids, and well-documented on-set issues during the making of this and other films on her 2011 comeback trail. We need to sweep all of this Cecilia Cheung craziness away from any discussion of Legendary Amazons because if we factor it in, the film will play second fiddle to the bewildering spectacle of a former Best Actress winner who’s seemingly looking to destroy her own career and reputation. The straight skinny on Cheung: she's in this film, she makes a lot of over-emotional faces and she generally does not shame or enhance the actual movie experience. Done!

Whoops, one more thing: Cheung is far too young for her role. The early-thirties Cheung plays Mu Guiying, a should-be forty year-old warrior who married into the Yang Clan at an early age. Guiying is married to Yang Zongbao (Richie Jen), son of Princess Chai Meirong (Liu Xiaoqing) and sixth Yang son Yang Yanzhou (dead, not in this film). Yanzhou's mother, She Taijun (Cheng Pei-Pei), presides over the whole clan, whose women are capable ass-kickers but do so without their men, most of whom died defending the Song Dynasty from foreign invasion. When the film opens, Yang Zongbao is the latest of her offspring to get offed (Richie Jen, gone for the whole film? Noooooooo!), leaving Guiying’s son Wenguang (Xiao Mingyu) as virtually the last Yang male. However, the corrupt Song officials aren't so sympathetic to the family’s lack of Y chromosome and decide to make Wenguang into their latest military leader/cannon fodder. His assignment: take on the vastly larger and also cartoonishly barbaric invaders from Western Xia.

The Yang women don't like having the remaining Yang heir head to his probable death, especially since he’s young and not as skilled as his many sisters, cousins, aunts, great-aunts and also his mom, grandma and great-grandma. Yes, there are four generations of women warriors in the Yang Clan, and outside of a few they all look twenty to thirty years of age. One could claim poor suspension of disbelief right there, but that's just how the film rolls - take it or leave it. Thankfully, the women can kick ass, which they do with cool weaponry, obvious fight training and very necessary wirework. Legendary Amazons entertains with unrealistic, over-the-top and very plentiful action sequences. The set up to the Yang Clan’s story is muddled and uneven, but after about thirty minutes the women are fighting foreign invaders in the desert, and the action never really lets up. There's a fun and uneven nineties-era vibe to the fighting female action, which helps offset the film's many detriments.

Frankie Chan hails from an earlier Hong Kong Cinema time, when filmmaking was shoot-from-the-hip, overwrought and given to sometimes entertaining sloppiness. Legendary Amazons feels like a product of that era, except with filmmaking innovations like visual effects – which the film uses terribly, by the way. Green screen work here is shoddy and unconvincing, and sometimes takes the audience out of the film. Acting, script and storytelling aren't much better (though the subtitles are entertaining, natch). Few of the actors acquit themselves well, the story never earns any emotion, and characterization is so routine that it’s hard to distinguish the Yang women from one another. Ultimately, the women are only recognizable if you know the characters from history or fiction, or if you know the actors themselves. Some familiar faces are present: Kathy Chow and Yukari Oshima (The Osh!) make rare movie appearances, as do eighties fixtures Wu Ma and Lin Wei. Grace Yip (Y2K from Gen-X Cops) appears in the background for no apparent reason. If you're not excited by this Hong Kong Cinema name-dropping, nobody over here will blame you.

For a fictionalized historical epic, Legendary Amazons is a bust, offering little besides its assumed "girl power" message and perfunctory placement in Chinese history. The film only covers part of the Yang Clan's story anyway (more will be told in Ronny Yu's Saving General Yang), and fails to convey the impact or importance of their valor or sacrifice. One wonders why S.A.R.F.T. didn't rebuke the filmmakers for referencing history poorly, but since they didn't we get this unconvincing and yet still entertaining relic. If you don't take the film seriously, ignore the obligatory drama and just go with the flow, the plentiful and goofy action may be enough to get you through. Anyway, you should stick around until the end to see Yukari Oshima hopping through the battlefield on pogo shoes. Yes, pogo shoes! Also, true to executive producer Jackie Chan, we get an end credits blooper reel showing the actors dropping swords, slipping on ice, getting tangled in wires, etc. The outtakes remind that action movies require effort and sometimes result in injury, and if nothing else, Legendary Amazons deserves respect for that. (Kozo, 2011)

 
Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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