Fong Sai Yuk (1993)
Reviewed by: Arshadnm6 on 2005-04-09
Summary: Fun, Silly action comedy with a lot to offer......
The story is set during the Manchu dynasty (Qing Dynasty) in Canton. Fong Sai Yuk (Jet Li), a courageous young martial-arts expert (the best in town) beats up gangsters and bullies in a brawl and they swear vengeance against him, resulting in a chaotic fight. All involved, including Fong Sai Yuk, end up in jail. Fong Sai Yuk’s father is very displeased. Later Tiger Lei (Chan Chung-Yung), a local official, decrees that whoever can beat his wife, Siu Huan (Sibelle Hu in ‘Tai Chi 2’ aka ‘Tai Chi Boxer’), in a match will win his daughter Ting Ting’s (Michelle Reis) hand in marriage. Tiger Lei then builds an enormous scaffold on which the combatants will fight; the first fighter to touch the ground loses. Fong Sai Yuk gladly takes on the feisty mother. Unfortunately, after seeing the homely woman he takes to be Ting Ting, Fong Sai Yuk decides to lose the fight. His wild and paranoid mother (Josephine Siao Fong-Fong) is mortified by the potential loss of face. To save their family honour, she masquerades as Fong Sai Yuk’s older brother, Fong Tai Yuk, and defeats Siu Huan. Unfortunately, Tiger Lei insists that the victor should honour the marriage contract, something complicated by the fact that Siu Huan finds Fong Tai Yuk irresistibly handsome. While that misunderstanding gets untangled, another issue develops when the family learns that the patriarch Fong is a member of the notorious rebel Red Lotus Society, a group the governor has vowed to destroy with the help of Tiger Lei. Back again to the romantic travails, after much confusion, Fong Sai Yuk and Ting Ting agree to marry and begin preparing for their wedding. They hold a prenuptial feast, one that the governor (Zhao Wen-Zhou, ‘Fist Power’ and ‘The Blade’) attends. Chaos ensues resulting in the accidental shooting of Siu Huan and the capture of the elder Fong. This leaves Fong Sai Yuk to figure out how to save his father from losing his head to the vengeful official. The story’s climax involves a confrontation between the governor, Fong Sai Yuk, his fiancé, his crazy mother, and a town full of irate citizens. The ever-impressing leader of the red flower society Master Chan (Adam Cheng Siu-Chow also seen in jet Li’s ‘Last Hero in China’) also makes a special appearance at the end of the movie.

This movie is well developed with several interweaving sub-plots and well-placed twists. Jet Li is given an opportunity to dish-up a playful and cheeky side of his acting talent, which he delivers to an astonishingly charismatic effect. The action comes thick and hard and is delivered expertly (along with the expected powder effects to enhance the force of impact) in fast-forward mode 1990’s martial arts movies style by Yuen Tak and Corey Yuen Kwai. Almost all of the fight scenes involve hand-to-hand fighting with each action scene taking its time to deliver its effect and revolves mainly around one-on-one encounters (which are much better worked than the one-versus-many scenes). A big budget is apparent from the movies setting in detailed town areas with large crowds seen in many action scenes which are intelligently placed throughout the movie. The costumes are also very inspired and seem to out-do most present day movies including ‘Hero’, ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ and ‘House of Flying Daggers’.

Overall, Fong Sai Yuk dominates most of the screen time and other actors idolise him and make him the centre of attention throughout the time. This is not a downfall since the other actors deservedly get an opportunity to develop their own characters and Jet Li does not disappoint. Nevertheless, family loyalty does play a big role in this movie and sometimes gets irritating. The blend of genres including action, adventure, romance and silly comedy make this a very entertaining production for light-hearted fun that delivers at a high value.

Overall Rating: 7.9/10
Reviewer Score: 8