Strange Chinese martial arts drama about so-called opera warriors.
Director: Xiaosong Gao | Stars: Chun Wu, Geng Han, Barbie Hsu
Budget: N/A | Box office: N/A
The name which prompted me to watch the movie is not in the main credits. Sammo Hung was once famous Jackie Chan‘s chubby sidekick from his early action comedy years and for Western audiences probably best known from the short lived TV series Martial Law. During his long career he became one of the most influential persons in Chinese and Hong Kong cinema. For My Kingdom he was working as a fight choreographer and producer. He together with couple other producers made the acclaimed The Warriors, and a picture with Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson – The White Countess.
Because of the solid production team and guessing from impressive film sets probably quite a substantial budget, the film was touted as one of most important Chinese movies this year, but in general it a bit fails to reach the level of few earlier movies of the same team.
First about the fight scenes, which is obviously the most important selling point of the movie. Despite touting Sammo Hung as a choreographer, there are only few impressive fight scenes scattered among the twisted plot of royalty-republicans revenge. But the few fights are really unique thanks to the setting of Chinese Opera. I haven‘t before seen such type of theater, where performers have to be martial artists and fight on the stage for real, but it is really impressive and works well for the exceptionally colorful and dynamic fight scenes.
Sadly, that’s over when the film reaches the middle and then starts the twisting plot about the opera actor revenge for his family death, quarrels with his brother, who becomes the main opera star after they both defeat the former champion and typical love triangles when a beautiful woman is involved. There are couple of other fight scenes, but they are much less impressive, with strange camera angles (and probably different types of cameras) used and too much slow-fast editing, or some effects like spilling wine from the barrels, which should impress, but it‘s just irritating.
The thing which helps to watch through a remaining half of the movie are impressive sets of 20‘s Shanghai. Maybe some plot twists will be interesting and surprising to watch, but I didn‘t pay much attention to that. Nevertheless, My Kingdom is worth to watch just for those few beautiful fights and the glimpse of the unique and colorful Chinese opera world. There are tens and hundreds clichéd martial arts movies, so at least this one has a distinct theme.