Once Upon a Time in China and America (1997)
Reviewed by: pjshimmer on 2001-01-27
Summary: Not as bad as I predicted
Yeah, the plot definitely was the poorest in all 6 series, but the action is among the upper, better part. In fact, I really liked this movie in general, which even surprises me because of the horrible things I've heard about this movie. I have yet to see sequels 3 and 5 (4 is out of the question for being so bad).

Anyway, the plot here puts the whole film down just a bit. It doesn't explain so many factors, so ruins a lot of the fun. The story starts with Billy, a mysterious man whose identity is never revealed in the movie, wanting to kill himself. Wong Fei Hung comes along and saves him. But soon, a bunch of Native Americans comes over and Wong and Billy tries to defend the group, but Wong, his student (the really ugly and weird-looking one whose head is always sideways. extremely irritating) and Aunt 13 fall into the river and Wong's head hits a huge rock and looses a lot of memory (strangely, not his martial arts or speaking skills). Somehow Wong is seperated with Aunt and his student, who end up in Wong's training center in California. They all try to find Wong with no luck. At the same time, all the Chinese in America are being discriminated against. People even threatened to kill some, but our western hero Billy, who is also highly skilled in guns (which makes it even more confusing as to why he wanted to kill himself at the beginning), protects the Chinese and eventually becomes the deputy sheriff of the town. Meanwhile, Wong is "rescued" by the Native American tribes, two of which are fueding eachother. Wong does not remember anything about his past, but does have some flashbacks once in a while. Wong soon helps the good Indian tribe defeat the other vicious one, and befriends the good tribe. One day when they're out riding, they're spotted by Aunt 13, who follows them and is caught by WOng, who apparently has no idea who she is. She wrongfully gets the impression that Wong changed his heart when she saw one of the girls with Wong's ring on her finger. Well, then she decided to leave America, but Wong came in time to stop her, still with amnesia. His student fights Wong in order to help him gain his past. Wong finally gets his memories back when he falls into the water. Meanwhile, a groups of Hispanic terrorists have teamed up with the untruthful mayor to plot schemes involving money. They got the money, but one of them is shot by Billy. To get rid of the unfavorable Chinese, the mayor hires a shameless Chinese spy to spill some money in Wong's home, and the mayor of course arrives, finds the money exactly where he put it, and denounces the whole Chinese community. Wong and 6 other people including Aunt 13 and Billy are sentenced to be hanged, but the Hispanics come back just in time when they find out that the mayor left out a couple of bucks. Wong and his student & Billy battle the Hispanics in a profound finale. When the criminals are captured, The Chinese are welcomed back, with Billy elected as the new mayor. I liked it where they made it sound like Wong's student (aka 7) and Billy creating 7-11 (the store), and when they created the first Chinatown at the end.

I've never liked a single one western movie before, but this western-eastern mix worked well for me. I think the idea of having Wong come to America and the old-school western stunts/shooting were very appealing. The downside, once again, is the plot. Although the Chinese were highly discriminated, the script never calls for a scene where it is fully and emotionally discriminated. RIght after the man spills beer on Aunt 13, Billy comes to rescue and the Chinese beat up the Americans. I wish they had some exploitation scenes where it makes you really wanna beat up the bad guys. This one does not. In addition, how did the Indian tribes rescue Wong? Why did they decide to keep him instead of slaughtering him? All these questions were left totally unanswered.

This film obviously influenced Jackie Chan's Who Am I (amnesia) and Shanghai Noon - a huge rip off in fact. You got the same catagoric Chinese hero and the similar Native American tribes there. Shame for Jackie Chan!

Overall, the action at the beginning when Wong and the group is attacked by Indians and at the end especially with Jet Li battling the head Hispanic terrorist is simply amazing. Not to say they're better than that of OUATIC 1 or 2, but they were deinifely up to the standards of any good martial arts film! There is even a 2 second cameo with some special effects seen from Storm Riders, Man Called Hero and the Duel! [8/10]