11 years ago a little film called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon debuted at Cannes 2000 and here we are in 2011 with Wu Xia. Crouching Tiger ignited my love for this genre and I really started to pay attention when that film hit the world. How to describe the evolution of the genre since then? Wu Xia can be described as having a bit of Rashomon, a pinch of A History of Violence, with Donnie Yen’s left foot crushing your windpipe, Wu Xia takes a few chances with the Asian martial arts genre and mostly succeeds. Despite starring in seven movies over the last three years, I am still not tired of seeing Donnie Yen.
Despite Yen’s immense skill and screen charisma, Donnie’s one-armed sword play somewhat pales a little compared to the sheer exhilaration of his two-armed fight with Kara. Director Chan uses slow motion and beautiful cinematography which, unlike with Zack Snyder, is actually integral to the story. Instead, Peter gives room for Donnie to flex his acting chops, and Donnie’s method for understatement works perfectly for a subtle and nuanced performance. Thanks to the capable cast, the well-crafted script, the restrained costumes and the breathtaking setting, most characters are lifelike.
This is such a refreshing movie for the martial arts genre, I predict this film will win a lot of awards next year, either Donnie Yen or Takeshi Kaneshiro will take home the best actor title. Production value is top notch, especially the locations and cinematography, which were superb. The locations are shown in all of their glory and the camera nicely frames them without being to overblown. During this change of pace, Yen completely transforms his character not into a tough guy, but rather, of a haunted, tortured soul. Yen’s versatility as an actor really shines in this movie and I honestly think it is one of his very best performances. As a martial artist, no worries, Yen’s still got the moves. Next, let us talk about Takeshi Kaneshiro’s character which is an interesting one.
His performance has an aura of quirkiness and yet, sadness, as the film progresses his character becomes ever more tragic and his once-aimless cause becomes justifiable. “Lust, Caution’s” Tang Wei has a supporting role that is basically a stereotyped character in all of this sort of films – the concerned wife. Peter Chan and Oi-wah Lam have grasped the key to writing a good story. Indeed, three-dimensional characters are more important than fancy fight scenes, so they take their time developing the characters in the movie. Thanks to the capable cast, the well-crafted script, the restrained costumes and the breathtaking setting, most characters are lifelike. Finally, a good martials movie that washes the bad taste in my mouth that has been lingering for weeks! Donnie Yen returns to the top of his game.