Monday, 3 November 2014

Once Upon A Time in China 3 (1993)

Despite this DVD set billing itself as the Once Upon A Time in China "Trilogy", there are actually six films in all.  These are the only three that I own, though, so it's effectively a culmination of the series for me.

So how is it? Well, honestly ... exhausting.  I like martial arts action, but - with a few welcome exceptions for the continuing romance between lead characters Wong Fei-Hung and Peony - this is pretty much bell to bell fight scenes.

Now don't get me wrong: the fight scenes are well-staged and pretty inventive.  There's an ongoing theme of Lion Dance combined with Kung Fu that adds lots of colour and props to many of the fights, for instance.  And a fight where Wong Fei-Hung has his shoes greased in oil that's also quite clever.  But for my tastes, they went on a bit too long, and there were just too many of them.

The plot has the dowager empress declare a kung fu competition, in the hope a display of martial prowess will invigorate the nation against the encroachment of foreigners.  Now Wong Fei-Hung himself has little interest in the competition - he thinks it's frivolous to fight for money or fame.  But many other martial artists don't share his opinion, and we'll soon meet the nefarious Chiu, who will stop at nothing to win.  Chiu will be our primary villain, though not the only one - there's a need for evil foreigners, after all.  The Once Upon A Time in China films definitely have a measure of political content to them.

I liked that this includes a satisfying progression of the relationship between Wong and Peony, and some of the action sequences are very impressive.  But unless you're a committed fan of the wire fu genre, you can safely give it a miss.

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