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Wu Dang
Wu Dang

Vincent Zhao and Mini Yang battle two-on-many in Wu Dang.


Year: 2012  
Director: Patrick Leung Pak-Kin  
Producer: Chan Khan
Writer: Chan Khan
Action: Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Vincent Zhao Wen-Zhou, Mini Yang, Xu Jiao, Louis Fan Siu-Wong, Dennis To Yue-Hong, Bau Hei-Jing, Henry Fong Ping, Shaun Tam Chun-Yin
The Skinny: Nostalgic throwback to silly martial arts adventures earns initial goodwill, but the uninteresting story and boring direction soon take over. Avoid if your time is valuable or in short supply. The disturbing romantic subplot is another issue.
by Kozo:
They donít make them like they used to, but sometimes they still try. Martial arts adventure Wu Dang earns immediate goodwill thanks to its vintage Hong Kong Cinema-style filmmaking and Corey Yuen-choreographed wire-fu. Then that goodwill ends. Directed in a disinterested fashion by Patrick Leung, who once made awesome movies like Task Force and Beyond Hypothermia, Wu Dang is a sometimes amusing but mostly boring throwback to 80s/90s HK Cinema, when decent stars and strong action were supposed to shore up loose productions. Vincent Zhao a.k.a. Chiu Man-Cheuk a.k.a. Zhao Wen-Zhou stars as Dr. Tang Yunlong, an Indiana Jones-type professor who hunts down rare antiquities. Tangís motivation is entirely personal; he believes that if he reunites seven treasures hidden on Wu Dang Mountain, something special will happen. Revealing that special something would be spoilerific, but even when spoiled, the details are not that exciting. If youíre looking for inspired screenwriting, donít visit Wu Dang.

The action isn't much better. When we first meet Dr. Tang, he discovers a map to the Wu Dang treasures while upsetting gangster Paul Chen (Shaun Tam) and his minions. Immediately, we get some action highlighted by wire-fu and creative prop use, and while the fighting isnít exceptional, the resemblance to old-time Hong Kong Cinema does charm. But that promise is never truly capitalized on, as the action, while arriving regularly, never surpasses its perfunctory purpose. To find the Wu Dang treasures, Tang pretends to sponsor a Wu Dang martial arts tournament, with his daughter Ning (Xu Jiao) participating as one of the contestants. Sadly, the tournament fights are routine and weighed down by a hackeneyed subplot involving Ning. The deal-breaker: romantic overtones between Ning and Wu Dang disciple Shui Heiyi (Fan Siu-Wong), which qualify as alarming because Fan Siu-Wong is nearly forty and Xu Jiao was only thirteen(!) when Wu Dang was made. If youíre feeling creeped out by this detail, youíre not alone.

The filmís other romance is legal, if not more interesting. Also pursuing the Wu Dang treasures is female fighter Tianxin (ubiquitous and always easy-on-the-eyes Mini Yang), who enters into a rivalry and then a partnership with the widowed Dr. Tang. The two fight and then flirt, while the local nuns and monks attempt to stop the two because they obviously donít want people running off with the Wu Dang treasures. Also antagonizing our heroes are Paul Chenís minions and top Wu Dang fighter Bailong (Dennis To of The Legend is Born Ė Ip Man), who has the unenviable task of overseeing the fighting tournament and keeping tabs on Dr. Tang and Tianxinís grave-robbing exploits. Eventually all these parties intersect along with the Wu Dang treasures, leading to more fights and a vaguely Dragonball-esque finale where a bunch of odd relics are combined to unknown mystical effect. With each characterís added personal stakes, thereís presumably plenty here to interest an audience.

However, actually caring about what happens in Wu Dang is difficult. The storyline and emotions are uninspired, with tension implied but never felt. Near the end of the film, multiple characters may die, but itís hard to care what will happen either way. Acting is serviceable (creepy relationship aside, Fan Siu-Wong and Xu Jiao do a decent job), but the material is lousy, with the fantastic elements coming off as either cloying or unfathomable. The cherry on top: bad visual effects that look only a step up from the painted-on acrylic variety. Combine all the above with wonky subtitles (ďIíve lost my faith in men and things.Ē) and you have a lousy but also nostalgic film that still might charm a certain dwindling audience, i.e., old-time genre fans who pine for the entertaining and sloppy HK films of years past. Presumably, Wu Dang writer-producer Chan Khan is a fan of similar throwaway martial arts films and if aping them was his goal then he succeeded. Emulating an actual good movie would have been smarter, though. (Kozo 2012)



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

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image credit: Mei Ah Entertainment Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen