Yuen Woo-ping has had a long and successful career as a director and actor in Hong Kong. American audiences may be more familiar with him through his outstanding fight choreography for such films as The Matrix, Kill Bill and The Forbidden Kingdom. After not helming a film since 1996’s Tai Chi Chun, Yuen returned to the director’s chair with 2010’s big-budget actioner, True Legend.

True LegendA general in the Imperial Army, Su Can (Vincent Zhao) rescued a provincial prince from a group of marauders. In return, the prince offers him a high ranking position in the government. However, Su turns the offer down, in favor of returning to his hometown with his wife, Ying (Zhou Xun), and opening a kung fu school. But his envious adopted brother, Yuan Li (Andy On), whose real father was killed years earlier by his foster dad, takes the position instead. When Yuan does return to their hometown, he looks like a completely different person; his skin is a deathly gray with armor sewn into it. He has also perfected the Five Venom Fists, a style that poisons the bloodstream of your opponent. Yuan kills Su Can’s father, severely beats Su Can, and throws him down a waterfall. Ying dives in after her husband and both appear to be lost. A troubled Yuan takes Su’s son Feng as his own.

However, Su and his wife, who just happens to be Yuan’s sister, have survived. They make their way to the mountains where they are rescued by Sister Yu (Michelle Yeoh), whose knowledge of herbs eliminates the poison in Su Can’s system. Spurred on by his wife, Su Can resumes training in the art of wu shu in order to regain his son. Along the way he counters a mysterious Old Sage (Gordon Liu) and the mystical God of Wu Shu (Jay Chou), but are they real people or a hallucination? As Su develops his own Drunken Fist style, Yuan’s influence is growing and Su and Ying risk losing their son to him forever if they don’t act soon.

Part Su Can biography (he’s featured in prior films such as Iron Monkey and Drunken Master) and part fantastical action extravaganza, True Legend certainly has its fun moments, but don’t expect any kind of continuity here.  Screenwriter To (Fearless) has crafted one of the most scattershot stories I’ve seen in a while. Characters are poorly developed; the relationship between Su Can and Yuan Li, which is the driving force behind the first part of the film, is so poorly developed that the characters motivations for their actions aren’t really clear. The only thing that matters is they fight. The saving grace here is that the fight scenes are so good, that martial arts fans just might forget the story’s shortcomings.

In terms of the acting, that’s not the best either. Vincent Zhao does a serviceable job, if not a memorable one, in the lead role.  However, we do get some fun moments involving Gordon Liu in his role as the mysterious Old Sage, a role clearly meant to remind viewers of his part as the wise Pai Mai in Kill Bill, and Jay Chou as the mystical god of Wu Shu. Unfortunately, the talented Michelle Yeoh is underused, and the cameo by the late David Carradine seems superfluous, as it doesn’t really add much to the story.

True Legend is best described as a film with great fight scenes, lots of style, and little else. If you want to see some awesome martial arts, by all means, check this one out, but if you’re looking for s strong narrative to go along with it, keep looking.

Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this 1080p transfer is quite impressive. Detail is quite strong, and color reproduction is excellent. Black levels are strong and inky throughout, and textures remain consistent. I spotted no digital anomalies.

The Mandarin language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track makes great use of all the channels. There are solid rumbles on the low end throughout. The fight scenes sound appropriately aggressive, and quieter moments are handled very well.

Optional subtitles are provided in English and a dubbed English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is also included.

The Blu-ray includes five featurettes presented in standard definition.

  • Drunken Fist Master (3:54) a look at how the story was put together.
  • The Militia’s Fortress (6:05) a look at the construction and design of the mountain fortress in the films opening sequence.
  • Thousand Buddha Cliff (3:55) a quick look at the effects and CGI used to make Su Can’s training ground.
  • Capturing Classical China (3:26) a look at the locations used in the production.
  • Choreographed Drunkeness (6:39) concerns the filming of the films fight scenes.

The disc also includes a Storyboard to Scene comparison, a music video for the song “Axis of Evil” by The Shadow Bureau, and the films international trailer.