Donnie Yen continues to mature as an actor. His role in Wu Xia allows a greater range than many before. And that he manages this while keeping up a jaw-dropping standard of fu design is further reason to delight in his current prolific output.
Reviewer Score: 9
The story revolves around the relationship between millworker Liu Jinxi and Detective Xu. The detective skillfully cross-examines the modest Jinxi. From the moment Liu Jinxi kills a hardened convict, it is clear that Liu is not who he purports to be. So why does Jinxi treat Xu as a friend ?
Considering that this is a fu flick, the relationship between these two main characters is complex, subtle and powerful. Much of the credit for this is down to Takeshi Kaneshiro, who gives one of his best performances. His Detective Xu uses acupuncture, dogged investigation, emotion and manipulation to get at the truth, having to examine his beliefs more than once along the way. He is simply riveting to watch, an all-the-more impressive achievement since his character is unable to fight.
So, what about the fighting ? In terms of screen time, there is far less fighting than, say, the spectacular and breathless Dragon Tiger Gate. Quite a lot of the story moves at the gentle pace of life in a sleepy village. But this story tactic provides a terrific contrast with the action sequences, which are breathless and stunning, the obvious use of CGI enchancement notwithstanding. And full marks for Donnie bringing in Jimmy Wang Yu and Kara Hui as guest stars. Though Jimmy benefits quite a bit from CGI, he still packs the old menace, and Kara is in fine form.
It is good to see Tang Wei back on screen. Since her stunning debut in Lust, Caution, much was expected of her, but she vanished for a couple of years Does anyone know what happened ? Unfortunately, she isn't given a whole lot to do here. Her character is nowhere near strong enough to get a look in with Donnie and Takeshi dominating proceedings. Oh well.
During the slower scenes, there is time to take in the scenery, which is lush and lovely to behold. Judging by the number of Thai names scattered through the crew credits, much of the filming was done in northern Thailand. And yes, the scenery gets a look in during a couple of action sequences, and is then used to great effect.