New Legend Of Shaolin (HK 1994)

Rating: ****
Director: Wong Jing
Action Director: Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Jet Li, Tse Mui, Chingmy Yau, Deannie Yip, Adam Cheng, Damien Lau, Wang Lung, cameo by Wong Jing

A dark, somber, and brutal Jet Li gives an intense performance and fights magnificently in this period action film with comedic moments added by Red Bean (sexy Chingmy Yau) and her mother (delightful Deannie Yip). It's great to see Ms. Yau in period dress and fighting, instead of being exploited as a bimbo. Youngster Tse Mui is wonderful, and his fighting nearly steals the show. Jet Li portrays Hung Hey-kwun, another legendary Shaolin hero, and to date this is my favorite Jet Li persona and image - he's awesome!

The film opens as Shaolin Temple has been pillaged by the evil Mings. The Shaolin monks anticipate this and tattoo different portions of a treasure map on the backs of five young kids. The kids manage to escape and are trying to figure out how to liberate and avenge Shaolin. A mysterious Jet Li and his son come to town and start working for the rich father of one of the Shaolin kids. Then all hell breaks loose when a devious Chingmy Yau frames Hung, and the Mings come to town looking for the kids, killing everyone in their way. Reconciling their differences, Hung, Red Bean, her mother, and the kids all flee to seek help from the Heaven And Earth Association, led by Damien Lau, but even he is defeated by the villainous and gross Poisonous Man (Wong Jing's trademark goofiness steps in here, but it's passable). But good finally prevails and Hung even gets the girl! Wong Jing also shows up in a humorous cameo as Fong Sai-Yuk, which causes Jet Li to give him a funny look. A great looking film with elaborate set pieces, well orchestrated action sequences, and some really intense performances. The film liberally borrows from Japan's samurai cult classic "Lone Wolf And Cub," and a familiar looking baby cart even shows up early on. Well, if you're going to steal from something, steal from the best!