Once Upon a Time in China IV (1993)
Reviewed by: pjshimmer on 2002-01-25
Summary: Exciting
This follow-up in the OUATIC series starring Zhao Wen Zhou is very much connected with the 3rd installment. Unfortunately, I don't think that should have been the case because Jet Li starred in the last one, and a direct transition to another lead actor should have involved a somewhat different approach in some elements. The plot has Wong Fei Hung's father receiving congrats from friends and gov officials for Fei Hung's winning the Golden Lion Medal at the end of part 3. Then from there the plot gets rather complex and promising, and lion dancing looks like the main theme. However, Zhao Wen Zhou was not yet prepared to take on the lead of such a legendary hero previously played by Jet Li. Nevertheless, Zheo tries his best and succeeds for the most part, making this my second favorite installment in the series.

The 2 Chinese villains in this film (one plays fencing-sword and the other a powerhouse played by Billy Chow) are ultra cool. One look at them and you'll want to see them duel with Wong Fei Hung. However, the grand duel was not satisfactory, which leads to the only thing I will complain about the movie - the average fight scenes. They're not mediocore, but they certainly are the laziest in the series. Zhao Wen Zhou obviously relies on wire way too much (wire was not extensively used, but Zhao never offers solid action like Jet Li does). In addition, the fight scenes are mostly extremely brief or contain excessive much slow motion. In fact, more than 50% of the fight scenes are presented in the unconvincing slow motion. Other than that and the underused music, the plot is complex and profound - like the original OUATIC; humor and the sentimental moments are welcome. And if you like to get a little emotional, this is really good stuff. One issue it brings up is the question of redemption (I just read several stories by Flannery O'Connor, so now is a good time to get into the subject). Is there really good outcome for good deeds? Not according to what happened to the senior maiden of the Female Boxers Cult, who was massacred after attempting to save Aunt 14 and the Germans. Her death was truly tragic, and it was great to see Zhao Wen Zhou kick some serious butt at that time. Also, it's great to see bad guys VS bad guys. The end sets the passage to part 5, which is equally as good. This movie is one of my favorites, but it doesn't feel like a Wong Fei Hung movie, and I'm not sure why.