DVD Review: THE LEGEND OF FONG SAI-YUK; Martial arts epic let down by poor transfer

Jet Li stars The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk, a martial arts epic in the tradition of the Once Upon A Time in China films that's finally received a worthy DVD transfer in the U.K. this week. First released in 1992 the film is directed by Corey Yuen, the legendary action choreographer for many of Li€™s films as well as numerous Hollywood action movies including X-Men and The Transporter€™ Li plays Fong Sai-yuk, a fictional Chinese folk hero revered in his homeland in much the same way as real life legend Wong Fei-hung was immortalised in Once Upon A Time in China and Iron Monkey. Set in China€™s Ching Dynasty, the film tells the story of a ruthless emperor who enslaves his people and persecutes a courageous revolutionary group, The Red Flower Society, mobilising to destroy his regime. When Fong Sai-yuk discovers that his own father is a freedom fighter who has been targeted for retribution, he embarks on a quest for justice that will unite his people and create a legend that will never be forgotten. Although this synopsis makes the film sound quite straight laced and serious, it is in fact a very fast paced, action comedy, with farcical elements of mistaken identity and constant humorous banter. The film is in a similar vein to the classic Kung-fu comedies such as Jackie Chan€™s Drunken Master and Stephen Chow€™s Kung Fu Hustle. The humour is warm-hearted and never strays too far off course or overshadows the dramatic elements of the story. The fight sequences come thick and fast are inventive, creative and never disappoint. The most memorable scenes include Li taking on an adversary in a fight leaping and jumping across the top of a large crowd using the heads of the people in the crowd for balance. Another scene sees Li take on the main villain played by Man Cheuk Chiu in a breathtaking fight where the pair battle each other with bamboo sticks of differing lengths to dazzling effect. Incidentally Chiu went on to play Wong Fei-hung in later instalments of the Once Upon A Time in China series. The films cast features a number of well known names from Hong Kong martial arts cinema. Michelle Reis from Bodyguards And Assassins, Chu Kong best known for John Woo€™s The Killer and Once A Thief as well as Josephine Siao, veteran Chinese actress and star of over 80 films. Jet Li also proves with the breathtaking action scenes why he is considered to be one of the best martial artists working in movies today. The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk went on to win a number of awards including Best Action Choreography at the Hong Kong Film Awards, Best Martial Arts Direction and Best Editing at Taiwan€™s prestigious Golden Horse Film Festival. The film also spawned a slightly darker sequel the following year with many of the original cast returning to their roles.


The film has been previously available on DVD in the UK under title Jet Li€™s The Legend but that was a bare-bones release and only had the dubbed English language audio track. This release from Cine Asia and Dragon Dynasty is the first time the original Cantonese language version has been made available in the UK. The transfer is a little poor with a very grainy picture making the film look older than it should. The Cantonese audio is only presented in 2.0 stereo and is fairly flat while the English dubbed track is in 5.1 surround and features a more Hollywood sounding score taken from the previous Dimension DVD release, however I would avoid this option as the dubbing, as always, is awful.


Extras include a feature length audio commentary from motor-mouthed Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan. His encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject is quite incredible and the commentary is always interesting. The version of the film included on this disc is actually cut compared to the original Hong Kong DVD release and Logan explains throughout the film what is missing as well as providing a compendium of facts about the film and Hong Kong action cinema in general, is there anything this guy doesn€™t know? Other extras on offer include €˜Hit Hard and Fly High€™, a 20 minute interview with Corey Yuen and €˜The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword€™, a 13 minute interview with the film€™s writer Jeff Lau. The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk is available on DVD now.

Chris Wright hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.