A scene from True LegendCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had introduced a new, magnificent type of martial arts film to North America. There were a few blockbuster follow-ups, but nothing similar has graced the big screen in some time. For those who have been patiently anticipating the next release, the wait is over. From acclaimed martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo Ping comes his directorial debut, True Legend.

This is an epic tale about the timeless battle between good and evil. Su Can’s (Vincent Zhao) respectable life is obliterated when his vengeful brother, Yuan (Andy On), returns from war armed with the deadly Five Venom Fists. Weakened but not destroyed, Su Can learns a never-before-seen form of martial arts: the Drunken Fist. Armed with this new power, he returns home to honour his family through retribution by taking on his brother in a battle to become the ultimate warrior.

The film opens with a high-flying action sequence that facilitates the dramatic rescue of a prince. From there, we are immediately made privy to the sibling rivalry that will dictate a large portion of the narrative. There are long breaks between battle scenes, but it makes each one that much more significant and exciting. With only a touch of the supernatural (and invisible wires), the conflicts remain impressive feats of skill and determination.

The delicate balance between fighting and drama/spiritual enlightenment is achieved surprisingly well, considering it’s the first outing by a director who was primarily concerned with the action of a movie for most of his career. Moreover, the actors appear to understand the deep emotional turmoil of their characters and avoid over-indulging in the melodrama of their plights – except for Su Can’s son, whose exclamations are often gratingly over-the-top.

True Legend is just the right mix of fantasy and history, as it reveals the creation of the Drunken Fist. Jackie Chan utilized this style of fighting in The Forbidden Kingdom, but its development is a far more interesting and tragic tale than one may think.

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