Synopsis: Martial Arts Master and former police instructor Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) is serving a 5 year prison sentence for killing a man in a duel. While in prison, he sees an news report about the brutal murder of a boxing master who was beat to death. Feeling he can assist in the investigation, he asks to speak with Detective Luk Yuen-Sum (Charlie Yueng), the leading investigator. He offers his help if Detective Yuen-Sum agrees to get him out of prison so he can help. She declines this offer at first because she doesn't feel Hahou can assist in the investigation. Hahou gives her a list of 7 names and tells her that one of them will be the next one killed. When one of those names is the next to die, she reconsiders and gets Hahou out of prison to aid in the investigation. Hahou discovers that the killer is following a martial arts code of training (Hands, feet, grappling, weapons, etc....). The killer is working his way through the code killing the top master of each style. Hahou also discovers that the killers calling card, an metal “Eaves Swallow” that was left at the scene, was actually an imitation of a “consolation prize” that was given to those who lost a martial arts challenge during the Qing Dynasty. The killer is leaving it to mock his victims, who lost the battle and are now dead. Hahou is trying to resist fighting but being a master, the killer wants to fight him to be the best. Threatening Hahou's love Sinn Ying (Michelle Bai) is a sure fire way to get him to fight. One final showdown, will Hahou put an end to the killer's mayhem or will he he become just another victim?
Before I even get started here, let me state that my forte in movies is not in Kung Fu or Martial Arts, nor do I truly know where the line is for their individual sub-genres. I enjoy any kind of action sequence that involves hand to hand combat and/or hand held weapons. I am more of fan of the Bruce Lee style kung fu movies, ones that don't require wires and people flying around the screen while the fight. For me, it's more amazing watching a brilliant fight sequence and admiring it because it legitimately could happen. Not saying I don't enjoy the Crouching Tiger/Kill Bill style movies where someone could run up a wall, back flip across the room and land on a railing three floors up. Now I watch these movies but I wouldn't consider myself an expert in the field. I know OF Donnie Yen but aside from IP Man and his short stink in Blade 2, I couldn't really pinpoint anything else he's been in so take this review as you will.
Story itself was pretty solid. I like the back story of the Eaves Swallow (whether that is actually true or not is beyond me) and how that played into the story line itself. I was also pretty intrigued that the martial arts code of training was the method the killer was using to pick his victims. Although the battle with the grappling master through me a bit. I was expecting more of a wrestling style battle. Apparently Chinese grappling consists of weird ways to tickle each other. There were a few side stories in this that didn't seem to play much of a point. A lot of flashbacks of the killer and his girlfriend who was losing a battle with cancer and deteriorating more and more in every flashback. My assumption is that the killer was challenging masters because he was determined to either be number 1 OR he was gonna challenge a man who would kill him to reunite him with is love. Although it was never actually said what the point of that story was. There was also a side story that was touched on quite a bit regarding the leg of the killer. The first time you see him, the camera zooms in on his left foot to show a drastic lift on that boot only. It is mentioned many times but one person who met the killer said he was born with leg atrophy and one of his legs is shorter than the other. Many people comment how impressive it is that he overcame that deficiency and became as skilled as he is. Again, I'm not sure what the point of that being in there is, aside from the fact that it makes him an even more impressive opponent for the final battle.
So the plot was pretty good but let's face it, no one watches these movies for the story. They want to see the fights. For that, the movie doesn't disappoint. As I stated earlier, I'm not as much a fan of the unrealistic fights that some of these movies tend to depict. Hell, one guy slid a motorcycle with what looked like an extended piece of PVC pipe. But the unrealistic aspects aside, there were some pretty badass fight scenes throughout the movie, and one pretty wicked leg break. The whole movie led up to the inevitable showdown that definitely lived up to the hype. The main showdown takes place in the middle of the road, weaving in and out of traffic. Hand to hand, weapons, it has it all. And it concludes with what could possibly be the worst case of road rash I've ever seen but you'll have to see that to believe me.
If I had to find a movie to compare this to, I'd probably say Jet Li's The One, minus the sci-fi aspect. It has a good combination of great, realistic, fight scenes mixed with some of the far fetched (Matrix style jumps across buildings and kicks through concrete walls) aspects that some fans have grown to enjoy. If you are an action fan of any kind, this is a movie worth checking out. If you are a Kung Fu/Martial Arts fan, this is DEFINITELY a movie to check out.
REVIEWED BY BOBBY
REVIEWED BY BOBBY