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Original Title:
Long nga

Hong Kong 2008

Action, Martial Arts

Li Chung-Chi
Wu Jing

Wu Jing
Celina Jade
Alex Fong
Sammy Leung
Lam Suet
Shiu Hung Hui
Keu Zhan-Wen
Kara Hui
Noriko Aoyama
Mark Cheng
Heaven Ho
Kai Man Tin
Wai Leung Wong

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Legendary Assassin

Story: Bo (Jacky Wu) kills the triad boss Ma and takes his head with him. Ma's wife (Noriko Aoyama) orders her subordinates to guard the body of her dead husband and find his head, before doing anything else. Bo, however, by some chance occurrence runs into female police officer Hiu Wor (Celina Jade), and saves her life from a few thugs. In order to make his testimony he accompanies Hiu to the police station and gets a warm welcome by the other policemen, except from Tarzan (Sammy Leung), who seems to be jealous of Bo and moreover suspects him of having his hands in some criminal acts. In fact, Bo has Ma's head with him all the time in a small bag and hasn't yet fallen into the hands of the gangsters instructed by Ma's wife, because he has found a good hideout at the police station without knowing it. Eventually, a patrol on the beat finds Ma's headless body and takes it to the police station, which leads to the gangsters assaulting the whole station, whereas one officer gets killed. The police is taking the case very seriously now, and eventually Bo gets into the crossfire, too, even if his new friend Hiu Wor can't believe that he is part of this whole case.

Review: "Legendary Assassin" looked really good and was somewhat like the hope of many Wu Jing fans that this might be the next step for Wu to climb up the ladder into stardom. Moreover, this time Wu Jing also stood behind the camera alongside action choreographer Li Chung-Chi, so that it was rather safe to assume that both knew how to get the best out of Wu's talents. Sadly, that's not the case, because apart from a thin, sorry script and transparent characters, even the fighting sequences can't really win you over, and this even though that should have been the actual strength of the movie. So what is left at the end? Definitely not much, despite "Legendary Assassin" managing to be somewhat entertaining every now and then, although just to a small degree. The film remains frustrating, nevertheless, since these kind of movies surely aren't the way for him to someday take over the place of Jet Li or Jackie Chan.

Storywise everything has already been said in the summary. There is nothing more to add to it. However, "Legendary Assassin" actually tries to bring the characters more into the film's focus, which in fact is solely tried to achieve by little more than perfunctorily thrown in background information about the individuals and this with so much exaggerated emotions and pathos that it actually completely eludes the viewer or in the worst case might even become a pain in the neck. It's also a pity that Wu Jing doesn't manage to bring the charisma to screen that must be there somewhere under the surface, as we have seen in "SPL". Yet, his character remains just plain, same goes for singer-turned-actor Celina Jade, who apparently tries to bring some romantic aspects to the screen. To her credit, she manages more than the rest of the cast, as it doesn't look good when it comes to the supporting cast either.

Interestingly enough, there are some familiar faces to be seen in the supporting roles. Shiu Hung Hui, Lam Suet or Kara Hui to name only a few. Yet, they don't succeed in bestowing something special upon their characters, which is especially sad as this could have saved the movie. But as it is they, including Alex Fong, simply give mediocre performances, which is still more than what Sammy Leung is doing, playing a policeman, who is jealous of Bo on every occassion, so that the family atmosphere that is tried to be created between the police officers at the station, merely remains an afterthought hanging in the air, as he gives us the feeling of looking at a bunch of children at a kindergarten. Not to mention the fact that the training of the policemen must have been quite some years ago, as dumb as they are acting at times.
This considered, Wu Jing might actually be the best part of the movie, since he at least manages to win the viewer's sympathy with his humble and always cool behaviour.

Li Chung-Chi's und Wu Jing's directing is nothing to write home about, everything is very routine, even if at some points everything is telling you that this is quality cinema - which it simply isn't. At least the soundtrack by Raymond Wong can create the right mood at times. But where the film actually should have been impressive it fails. That is because the fights are rather unspectactular since we nearely get nothing to see of Wu Jing's fantastic body control. The reason for that is the extensive use of wires, which are brought into action when performing even the smallest flying kick. Why, we ask ourselves. A few realistic moves of Wu would have been so much more impressive. The wire work might make sense for Celina Jade, because during her little entanglements it becomes pretty obvious that she is absolutely inexperienced in this field, even though the filmmakers tried to hide that - but for Wu? Li Chung-Chi, who has already been responsible for the action choreography in "Fatal Contact", "Invisible Target" and "New Police Story" actually should have known better how to bring Wu Jing's martial arts skills onto the screen.

Apart from the flashbacks which are supposed to arouse an artificial form of sentimentality, there are also other scenes that disappoint with a lack of originality. For example, there is the final showdown in which our female protagonist turns into a damsel in distress and has to watch her savior challenge a whole army of about 100 men - of course it's night and hard rain is pouring down in order for the tension to increase. Ok, I have to admit it's still fun to watch Wu Jing pummel his way through an army, yet it's everything but realistic, of course. And I don't talk about the fact, the the villians wait for their turn to eat some fists from Wu instead of attacking all at once, but the scenes in which Wu just walks up the walls of a building. He surely would have managed to do that without wires even if it wouldn't have looked that light-footed, but what's so bad about that?
In the end, "Legendary Assassin" is simply disappointing and doesn't succeed in bringing Wu Jing's skills and charisma onto the big screen. Which means that his true break-through is yet still to come. Therefore, the film itself remains only recommendable to fans of the genre or of Wu Jing.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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