Legend Of The Wolf (HK 1996)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/26/99
Producer: Donnie Yen
Director: Donnie Yen
Cast: Donnie Yen, Carmen Lee, Ben Lam

Just when I thought I'd never see another kung fu movie come out of Hong Kong, I stumble across this amazing gem. Very exciting - a remarkable achievement for Donnie Yen as an actor and as a filmmaker. This is the tale of a master assassin named Fung Man-hin (Donnie Yen), told through a series of embedded flashbacks. Basically, after the war, Man-hin was seriously injured and went into hiding. He suffered from amnesia, but he remembered that a girl (pretty Carmen Lee) was waiting for him to return. Hoping that being reunited with with his old girlfriend would restore his memory, he seeks her out, while being constantly ambushed by other creeps from his forgotten past. Things go from bad to worse, leading to a exhausting kung fu frenzy between Donnie Yen and kickfighter Ben Lam's nasty gang. They're both looking older now, but damn, can they fight!

This is Donnie Yen's first time behind the camera, and he definitely has a good eye. The film is very well made and the cinematography is gorgeous. A little older now, Donnie delivers a decidedly more reserved and mature performance, but he still crackles with intensity and raw power. The fighting in the film is of the likes I haven't seen since the 1980's, and is extremely exciting to watch. A lot of people have criticized Donnie's overuse of undercranked fight scenes, but in this film it doesn't seem to detract from what's going on too much. On the contrary, the exagerrated action actually complements the melodramatic tone of the film and the larger than life characters. The fight choreography and execution is still top notch, and real-time and slow motion shots are all combined to even out the final product. The love story and other dramatic elements are handled nicely, and even delicately, but the real driving force behind the film is to see Donnie Yen kick some serious ass (which he does quite nicely). Although the story sometimes left me feeling as confused and isolated as Donnie's character, it's still a lot of fun to watch. A definite must see for action fans, kung fu fans, and Donnie Yen fans.