A Chinese Legend (HK 1991)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 7/9/22
Cast: Jacky Cheung, Joey Wang, Cheung Man, Wu Ma

Moon-Cher (Joey Wang) is a sacrificial maiden to appease the Ghost King, but a swordsman named Yat-Long (Jacky Cheung) unwittingly rescues her and falls in love with her. He also befriends a fox goblin named Ching'er (Cheung Man), who foolishly falls in love with him, setting up a doomed love triangle between man, ghost, and goblin. In order to save the world, Yat-Long must travel to Hell and battle the Ghost King for Moon-Cher's soul, and Ching'er decides to help. Does he live and get the girl in the end? Nobody knows, because the film ends prematurely.

Clearly inspired by "A Chinese Ghost Story" (1987), it's a pale imitation at best. Fortunately, the cast is wonderful, the cinematography is gorgeous, the sets and costumes are delightful, the locations are breathtaking, and the music score is superb. Jacky Cheung is charming and delivers an excellent performance. A melancholy Joey Wang mopes through the entire film, but remains tragically beautiful. Her dance scenes and romantic scenes are especially captivating. Lovely Cheung Man has a little more range as the mischievous, but tragic fox goblin, and she gives a strong and solid performance. Her fight scenes with a surprisingly spry Wu Ma are delightful. Films like this remind me why I fell in love with Hong Kong cinema in the first place, and make me mourn the current state of the industry.

Unfortunately, the film drags quite a bit and can be tedious to watch, so it's a good thing that there's plenty of eye candy to keep you distracted. The visual effects range from good to bad, which often breaks suspension of disbelief, and there are several laughably bad hair continuity problems. Still, despite its warts, I thoroughly enjoyed this fantasy period drama from the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema.