The Once Upon A Time In China film series was starting to get pretty silly. Look, when you go from having plots with serious political statements to silly superhero fare there are going to be some people who feel alienated and ask questions like, “What happened to this film series?” Luckily, it seems that Tsui Hark, who was absent in the director’s chair from the fourth entry but every bit as guilty with the third installment, threw away his lion dancing fetish and looked back to the first two films. While this fifth film isn’t near as good as the first two, it is a lot more fun than the previous two. Vincent Zhao returns to play Wong Fei Hung and he betters his performance from the fourth one to shape his performance to a good one. Rosamund Kwan returns as 13th Aunt and with Jean Wang as 14th Aunt in the picture, there’s a love triangle that brews.
Wong Fei Hung and his allies return to Foshan and prepare to move to Hong Kong, then a British colony. Once they arrive, they see the town has become a poor state, with the local army garrison having absolutely no food or money. Pirates show up and make an already bad situation worse so Wong and his allies decide to form a crime force to rid of the threat.
The plot isn’t complicated at all. It’s probably the easiest to follow of all of them with a basic good vs. evil sort of a plot. There actually isn’t a lot of action in this but when the action does happen; it’s fun to watch. The fight scenes aren’t going to blow you away by any means but they will put a smile on your face. If there is one thing this film doesn’t have that is a plus; No lion dancing! We can back to hand to hand combat and weapons fighting and this doesn’t disappoint. While some of the fights are silly, it’s still entertaining to watch. This film does have the most characters in it, with Wong Fei Hung, of course but along with the Aunts, Leung Foon returns along with So, Clubfoot and “Porky” Wing who has been absent since the first film. Their chemistry adds to the comedy and there are quite a bit of funny scenes in this film. One scene has Wong Fei Hung using a gun for the first time and fails to hit a single pot. Leung Foon then tries and he fails along with Clubfoot. The one who is able to use a gun is Bucktooth So. He is absolutely perfect. Porky Wing then uses a shotgun and accomplishes to destroy the platform the pots were hanging off of. It’s laugh out loud insanity!
The one thing I wish was different was the opening sequence which they re-used from the fourth film. I wish we could’ve seen another display of Vincent Zhao’s martial arts talents but instead we just see the same thing. Knowing that they used the same footage as the opening sequence does give the film a rushed feel and it definitely has that. While this film is probably the most forgotten and buried under the dirt of the Once Upon A Time In China films, it’s still one of the more fun ones. It’s not perfect and nowhere near as cool as the first two but I would recommend it nonetheless. By the way, someone else would play Wong Fei Hung in the sixth and final installment of this film series and I’ll let you guess as to who it is. Did you guess who it is yet? I’ll give you a clue; his name starts with a Jet and ends with a Li. I’ll let that simmer in your head for a while.