True Legend tells the origin story of Su Can. A much celebrated General in the Chinese military, whom after rescuing a member of the Royal Family, is offered the position of Governor of Hu Bei province. Su Can has no such interest in this, and would much rather retire from the military and dedicate his life to the perfection of the Wu Shu art. He asks that his adoptive brother Yuan be made Governor, and leaves to live a simple life, with his family and his art.
Su Can spends the next five years with his wife, elderly father and young son, when he receives word that his adoptive brother Yuan is returning home. However, it turns out that this isn’t a happy family reunion, Yuan has grown incredibly bitter and violent in the 5 years that have passed, and has issue with his adoptive father. This family reunion acts as the catalyst that will lead to Su Can’s eventual downfall, and emergence as the Drunken Master, Beggar Su.
I’ve always enjoyed Beggar Su as a character, and while actor Yuen Siu-tien (Director Yuen Woo-ping’s real life father) will always be the definitive Beggar Su in my eyes, I really relished the origin story told in True Legend. Ultimately the story is one of tragedy, a man who had it all, and lost it due to a series of events out of his control. However, despite all this, True Legend never devolves into a depressing sob story, as it has too many training sequences and awesome fight scenes to stop it fully slowing down into a full blown drama piece.
I’ve never fully enjoyed the Martial Art films that make extensive use of wires in their fight choreography, I prefer the stunt teams of old, that used to be a staple in most films with martial artists such as Jackie Chan, Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais. When they do make use of wires, it’s just to accentuate or make certain things safe. So it came as a huge surprise that I really enjoyed the extensive use of wires in True Legend, despite my previous bias. The fight scenes in this movie are great, usually set in either beautiful locations, or having some pretty incredible set pieces. Fighting on a precarious platform alongside a raging river, or in a training ground set alongside a wine cellar, True Legend has some pretty memorable fight scenes, all performed really well by the lead actors. Vincent Zhao in particular really shines as a young Beggar Su. He can act, and he can most certainly scrap.
Where True Legend doesn’t hold up so strong is in its use of CGI. While it’s limited in its use, and you can see that it was only used in an effort to enhance particular scenes, it unfortunately has the opposite effect and ends up detracting from the on screen action. However, these moments are overall few and far between, and does little to spoil what is otherwise an awesome movie.
As an aside, it has a few cameos from stars western audiences will be more familiar with, Mixed Martial Artist Cung Le, Michelle Yeoh and was one of the late, great David Carradine’s final performances.
From the back story of Beggar Su, beautiful set pieces, the awesome fight choreography, there’s more than enough here for me to recommend this to any martial arts fan. It’ll go down as one of my favourites, and I think it’s a fine addition to any martial arts movie collection.
True Legend is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray from Via Vision Entertainment.
You can also check out our interview with the films Director and Choreographer Yuen Woo Ping here!