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詠春 (1994)
Wing Chun

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 12/17/2008

Instead of adapting the life of noteworthy 17th Century [female] master Ng Mei whose patented brand of aggressive, close-rang gung fu heavily influenced Bruce Lee; Yuen Wo-ping opts for a tedious satire of her top student Yim Wing Chun for whom the style was named after.

This worked for Yuen's own "Drunken Master" a comedic spin on Wong Fei-hung for two reasons: (1) the trials and tribulations of China's most cinematically accessible national had been thoroughly exhausted by 1978 when the film premiered (2) "Drunken Master" was amusing. "Wing Chun" is not.

Michelle Yeoh, in a fine performance, stars as the motherless cross-dressing title character that runs a bean curd stand with her fugitive-from-the-law father. Though her accomplished martial arts are no secret in their mountain village Yim reserves them almost exclusively for punch lines until bandits from a near-by fortress begin to harass her fellow villagers.

"Wing Chun" is fairly disarming when it should have been thoroughly engaging. The film goes to great lengths to bore the audience and then suddenly springs to life just when your threshold for tolerance is about to snap.

Yuen Wo-ping finally relaxes during the final act -- the choreography tightens as a direct result -- and the film's misguided sense of humor begins to fade but just when things really get cooking and Michelle Yeoh and co-star Donnie Yen are allowed to shine its way too late.

Cheng Pei Pei appears in a tongue-in-cheek torch passing cameo as Ng Mei.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/27/2005

In Yuen Woo Ping's first movie with a female lead character, Yeoh plays the folk hero Yip Wing-Chun, a female kung fu expert who must help to defend her village from a group of bandits. Along the way, she meets up with a childhood friend (Yen) who supposedly loves Wing Chun, but doesn't recognize her due to her adopting of male clothes and mannerisms. Waise Lee plays the local scholar who schemes to marry Chun to insure prosperity for his business.

A fast-paced, enjoyable kung fu/comedy that nicely showcases Yeoh's talents. She's sexy, smart and funny... not to mention being able to kick some serious ass when the need arises. As might be expected from Yuen Woo-Ping, the kung fu is of the exaggerated wire-fu variety -- so if you're looking for realistic action, look elsewhere. But Yeoh's scenes are quite exciting and unique; the "tofu showdown" where she must keep one of the bandits from chopping a piece of tofu is a masterpiece and literally something you won't see anywhere else.

Wing Chun is not without its faults, though. The romantic subplot (actually, there are several of them) really add nothing to the film. They're dealt with in such a heavy-handed and hammy way (the scene where Yen finally recognizes Wing Chun is cheesy beyond belief) that they just seem tacked on and unnecessary -- even the more so because there is little resolution to the various romances at the end of the film. The movie also has a lot of slapstick and sophomoric sex jokes, which makes the film seem like a HK version of "Benny Hill" at some points. Still, Wing Chun still comes highly recommended, especially for those who want to see a softer side of Michelle Yeoh.

[review from]

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 08/05/2005
Summary: Michelle Yeoh at her best...

Starring Michelle Yeoh, this tongue-in-cheek action-fest is a showcase for Yeoh and allows her to show off not only her great acrobatic fighting skills but her acting as well. Michelle plays Yim Wing Chun, a woman living in a small village who is an expert in the martial arts. Because of her prowness in fighting, she is often mistaken for a man, which leads to some clever scenes of mistaken identity. When bandits chase a woman and her injured husband into town, Yim Wing Chun is the only person skilled enough to fight off the group. Wing Chun and her sister take in the woman, named Charmy (Catherine Hung), and allow her to work in their tofu shop, where she becomes an instant draw to the men in town. Meanwhile, the leader of the bandits has decided that he deserves to have Charmy as his wife, and sets out to kidnap her. The story progresses with Wing Chun defending the town and beating anyone and everyone who dares to challenge her. Eventually, the bandits manage to capture Charmy, and carry her off to their mountain fort. Later, when a stranger (Donnie Yen) arrives in town looking for Wing Chun and does not recognize her (again, thinking she is a man), she is too embarrassed to reveal herself. The two were childhood friends, but had grown apart and not seen each other for many years. As the two become closer, Leung Pok realizes that Wing Chun is the girl he knew, and decides to help her rescue Charmy from the bandits.

A great showcase for Michelle's screen charisma and Yuen Woo-ping's fight choreography, Wing Chun is a funny, exciting and very entertaining movie. Yeoh is incredible as usual, whether she's dispatching bandits or playing serious scenes. She is also good in the comedic scenes, providing a unexpected break from the furious action. Colorful characters like Scholar Wong, Flying Monkey and Wing Chun's sister (played by Yeun King Dan) provide a funny supporting cast. Being a historical kung fu movie, there is a fair amount of wire work, but it very well done and not completely over used. The fight scenes are fast-paced and exciting, with Donnie Yen standing out in the later scenes. Michelle Yeoh is the true star of this movie and shines as Yim Wing Chun, bringing the beauty as well as the brawn to the title role.


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 08/04/2005
Summary: Solid entertainment

Despite being a movie about the 'founder of Wing Chun', the movie does not actually look at that aspect of her character, as one might expect. i.e. there are no scenes of her formulating the style, discussion of the technique or theory etc (Actually I believe it wasn't Yim Wing Chun that invented the Wing Chun style anyway - her sifu did, then named it after her pupil) I doubt that very much if any of the story is based on any tale of Yim Wing Chun's life - and they don't even use real Wing Chun moves in the fight scenes! It was probably meant to be called "Kung Fu Wonder Woman" or something originally, but they figured the Wing Chun name would get the punters in :p

The film is not a pure martial arts film, since most of the time is taken up with comedy & romance(some requited and some unrequited). There's lots of HK style "comedy of errors" and some pretty frisky sex comedy... and some villains to fight with from time to time. The movie moves briskly, and does not take itself to seriously. In fact, the first time I saw the movie I didn't enjoy it because I thought it was just too silly and frivolous, but a second watch in better mood had me more entertained. Waise Lee is really annoying in his role as the scheming and lecherous scholar, but the rest of the cast put on a good show (though Catherine Hung overplays the coquettisheness). Yuen King Tan deserves special mention, playing a great comic foil to Michelle Yeoh's rather straight Yim Wing Chun.

The defining moments of the film are of course the action sequences. Wo Ping again shows that he is the best in the business, with some very imaginitive choreography. Lots of cool spectacles. Unfortunately, this was during the phase where Wo Ping was seriously overusing undercranking - thanks to Donnie Yen's influence, if Yen is to be believed. No guys, it does not look cool to film at half speed - it looks fake and cartoonish, and makes it hard to tell what is going on. The fight scenes would have been much more effective if they'd been filmed at something closer to real time, in my opinion. Watched in the cinema they're good, but on home video a lot of the impact is lost (especially if that video is PAL, meaning that everything is sped up another 4%).

Summary: not a movie without flaws, not a deep or insightful movie, but a decent piece of entertainment in that unique Hong Kong style :)

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 07/24/2005
Summary: Another triumph for Michelle Yeoh

While this movie has little to do with the actual founding of the Wing Chun system it has its place in history. The shot of Michelle Yeoh as Wing Chun, pulling a spear from a rocky cliff face, one foot braced against the cliff, her body as tight and lethal as a drawn bow and her face a study of relaxed concentration has become one of the minor iconic images of martial arts cinema.

And deservedly so. The movie itself goes from strength to strength. Michelle is terrific, Donnie Yen is effective as her childhood sweetheart who returns to her, only to find himself smitten (mistakenly) by a beautiful girl he thinks is the grown up Wing Chun.

There is excellent action choreography, especially the scene in which Wing Chun defeats a villain while also handling a tofu cake the size of a manhole cover. Another is embedded in an extended fight with Flying Chimpanzee when she lures the spear wielding FC into a very small space where his weapon becomes a hindrance. The great Yeun Wo Ping directed and did some of the fight choreography and everyone involved responded with superlative efforts.

The twice-thwarted romance between Wing Chun and Leung Pok To is central to the story and not simply tacked on to pad out the time between fights. The viewer really cares about both the characters and wants them to succeed—not only as defenders of the weak but as human beings with real wants and desires. Michelle Yeoh looks great in her appropriately androgynous costuming. Women in male drag are a staple of HK filmmaking but Wing Chun is so gorgeous, so noble and so adept at kung fu that the filmic “reality” both comments on and undermines the convention. Pile all the male accoutrements available onto the perfect woman and she is still the perfect woman.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 02/01/2004
Summary: finally saw it....

fun stuff. nuff said. recommended.

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 05/02/2003
Summary: Great action, charming and different...

I thank the heavens that this film was made. It is refreshing and light with excellent characters and great performances. I laughed a lot and loved the upbeat action scenes. Yeoh is top end. Throughly recommended.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/24/2002
Summary: Poor....but...

I seem to be the odd one out here, as I managed to look beyond the excellent fight scenes. Like Sydneyguy said, there is something that left him dissatisfied...well, here's what it is.

Though it is a good attempt at trying to show the historical side of Wing Chun and her school, her character is not explored enough to give the viewer a true feeling of knowing her, which at the end of the day is what this film is supposed to do. There are some unoriginal plot twists too, which although may look good to those who have not seen many films like this before, but those who have will know what I mean. There are some really stupid comedy scenes added to this too, which simply ruin the film from being it's serious insight it is supposed to be.

Also, this is the only film I think I have seen where Michelle is doubled for some of the action scenes, because she usually does her own stunts. I guess she’s not as good at martial arts as I used to think too.

Yuen Wo Ping to me still has not directed a film that is flawless, as he knows too much about action directing only. Which is where the film picks up. The action scenes are excellently choreographed, and compared to the rest of the film it is obvious that he can't direct anything else but action scenes. Not that I blame him for trying, because he is one of the best action choreographers in the world.

I think most martial arts enthusiasts would love this, but for an overall film it's very poor, really. Very over-rated for what it is. I would have rated it lower than I have, but the fight scenes are really well down, and must be given high points for them.

Rating: 3/5

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 03/07/2002
Summary: Pretty good

I think everyone liked this but there was something about tis movie that left me unsatisfied. Not sure what is it but the action was good.


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 01/21/2002

A solid martial arts actioner directed by the majestic Yuen Wo Ping and his prodigy Donnie Yen and, of course, the main attraction Michelle Yeoh. The whole cast is excellent, and everyone stands out. But I thought Norman Chu was exceptionally suited for his slick villainous role. The movie is a kung fu movie rather than a swordplay movie, which means the actors actually have real skills. Many many great moments: Michelle VS Donnie, Donnie VS the monkey villain, Norman Chu VS Michelle and Michelle VS the monkey villain, all of which are top notch fights! But the best scene of all has Michelle Yeoh trying to hold a table of tofu still while bringing damage to a kung fu master from Canton. The movie sticks to a optimistic tone, and no one, not even a villain, dies! (actually one guy did die, but he was a sick and was not killed or anything) You'll never see a cooler villain or a happier finale, in which Michelle Yeoh looks prettier than ever(too bad she really can't do wing chun)! Though not a believable story, it's better than anything that comes out these days.


Reviewed by: cathy in nyc
Date: 02/02/2000

This is one of my all time favorite HK movies. Michelle Yeoh is fantastic. I think this is one of her best roles. She plays Yim Wing Chun, who works in her aunt's bean curd shop and who also spends most of the movie dressed in men's clothes, which leads to confusion when her longlost childhood sweetheart played by Donnie Yen returns to town and doesn't recognize her. Donnie Yen is also very good in this movie, as is Yuen King Tan in a comedic role as Yim Wing Chun's aunt. What I also found interesting is that Michelle Yeoh's part is basically that of the traditionally male hero, in terms of rescuing and protecting the damsel in distress and saving the village from bandits. There are several great fight scenes involving Michelle Yeoh's character fighting the evil bandit king and the evil bandit king's stupid brother. I especially enjoyed the scene close to the end where Yim Wing Chun outthinks the bandit king in a fight by choosing short swords against his overly large spear by retreating to a small hut where he can't effectively use the giant spear because it is too long. This movie is a must see.

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 12/26/1999
Summary: Great performances

Yuen King Tan is near her wacky best as the loudmouthed and hot-tempered maiden aunt, and it's great to see her onscreen for more than just a short cameo. Waise Lee hilariously plays against type as the wimpy Scholar Wong who woos the lovely young widow (the Maggie Cheung-lookalike Catherine Hung). Norman Chu is a most cheerful villain, who even finds it hilarious when his brother(or comrade ?) has his dick burned off, and he's terrific as Michelle's near-nemesis with tricks galore, including the "cotton belly".

But it's the great Michelle's show all the way and her early training as a dancer shows, especially when she does mouth-gaping tricks such as standing on one leg with the other pointed straight up and holding a tray. Personally, I think the mannish look suits Michelle quite well, and she plays up to it nicely. Not unusually for HK, the plot is highly male-chauvinist - Michelle must marry to improve her powers to defeat the villain, YuenKT becomes much sweeter when she marries. And while it's true that no character dies of fu fighting here, any two of the serious blows they took would have been fatal in real life. Doesn't matter, though. It's still great light fun, and a definite must-see.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

Charming kung fu comedy/romance (a la Fong Sai Yuk I) w/ Michelle Yeoh as the 'mannish' (often cross-dressed) kung fu innovator Yim Wing Chung, who invents a new style, defeats the bandit lords, and nabs Donnie Yen as her devoted, subservient husband. Wonderful, creative "FSY"-style (fakey but funny and most impressive) fight / stunt choreography - incl. the "tofu fight". Amusing lesbian foot massage scene. Proves, again, that Michelle Yeoh is the finest of the women working in the (Jet Li-style) period piece kung fu comedy.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Michelle Yeoh is absolutely fantastic. This is the first movie I have seen with her in it, and she's great! Her martial art skills are incredible, and she can act just fine. This movie was a lot of fun, from the stinky Aunt to Donnie Yen getting himself confused about who Wing Chun is. Even the bad guy is a lot of fun (it's the same guy from King of Beggars, except not nearly so evil). Yuen Woo Ping works his magic again and does a great directing job.


[Reviewed by Dale Whitehouse]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Fairly liberal dramatisation of what is generally taken to be"real" Wing Chun history. The martial arts sequences are not particularly "real" Wing Chun, but they do have a Wing Chun flavour. (Wing Chun is the art Bruce Lee studied for a few years before he began his screen career.)

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Yim Wing Chun (Michelle Yeoh) dresses like a man, makes the best stinky bean curd in town, and can beat up just about anybody to the consistency of tofu; her spendthrift sister is a master of the abacus, but a little less cute; and troubles erupt when they save a pretty young widow named Charming from selling herself into a life of dishonor. Now that she works at Wing Chun's stinky bean curd shack, everybody lines up just for a look at the girl, though suitors like scholar Leung Po To are a little confused about her relationship with her employers, if you know what I mean. Roving bandits are the town's greatest concern, though, and after Wing Chun rips off the second chieftain's penis, the bandit king decides she's the girl for him. No matter how violent the action, nobody gets killed, and the action is so bright and good-humored that it's hard to take things too seriously. Major battles include Wing Chun as a shadow-fighter for the hapless scholar; later, her twirling a flat of bean cake against a mystified martial arts master; and her battle against the bandit chief while balanced on an iron pole. Thoroughly enjoyable; it's one of the few Michelle Yeoh films where her good humor and charm really have a chance to shine through.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7