Saturday, April 22, 2017

Once Upon a Time in China III /
黃飛鴻之三獅王爭霸 (1993)

One of these things is not like the other in third installment.

Written by Tsui Hark, Cheung Tan, and Chan Tin-suen
Produced by Tsui Hark and Ng See-yuen
Director by Tsui Hark

"Once Upon a Time in China III," the third film in the series in as many years, gets by on its looks alone; its aesthetic properties are just as surreal and powerful as anything in the series that preceded it. By contrast the first two installments almost single-handily resurrected an ashen subgenre and re-invented it in the image of its creator Tsui Hark who stressed to audiences of the period the importance of nationalism, pride, and self-sufficiency. As a standalone film it's a great piece of entertainment but it isn't alone and there's little to glean from Wong (Li) traveling to Beijing to compete against brutes in a lion dancing competition while Aunt Yee (Kwan) inadvertently uncovers a Russian plot to assassinate Empress Dowager! If there's more there you aren't very likely to plunge its depths looking for more subtext than what's already been afforded to us. If beauty is only skin deep than at least you can argue "Once Upon a Time in China III" is really fun to gawk at.

With Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok, Xiong Xin Xin (Hung Yan-yan), Lau Shun, John Wakefield, Chiu Chin, Wong Tak-yan, and Ge Cunzhang