Eye For Film >> Movies >> Once Upon A Time In China 3 (1993) Film Review
It is the late 19th century and martial arts legend Wong Fei-Hung (Jet Li) and his sidekick arrive in Peking. Accompanying Wong is Yee (Rosamund Chan), his young Westernised relative-by-adoption. The dowager Empress has announced a Lion Dance martial arts contest and all of the cities' associations are determined to win, at any cost.
To make matters worse, Wong has to fight a battle on two fronts: against the mighty fighter Club Foot (Hung Yan Yan), who is working for the gangster Leung Fun (Mok Siu-Chung), and against the Russian diplomat, Tumanovsky (John Wakefield), who is also in love with Yee. As the contest approaches, many secrets are uncovered and it seems as if the only way to win is to join forces with a deadly rival.
Once Upon A Time In China 3 - subtitled, The Lion Dance Competition - is the third in a series of films by Tsui Hark, starring Li, as one of the seven great real-life heroes of Chinese martial arts history: Wong Fei-Hung. As with the previous two movies, this is a grand action adventure, with hundreds of extras, wonderful sets and a bit of romance thrown in as well. It's also the first in the series to be filmed on location in Beijing, using the city's architecture to great effect.
The film is set in the late 1800s, and there's a definite sense of East meeting West. As you might expect, historical accuracy isn't strictly adhered to, and so we have Yee indulging in a spot of filmmaking.
Of course, what you're watching the film for is the fighting scenes, and they don't disappoint. Especially good is the one where Wong fights off hundreds of swordsmen using just his jacket, and the final climactic Lion Dance where the elaborate lion heads jostle him as he attempts to thwart a dastardly plot.
Nevertheless, for people who have come across the movie after seeing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it's slightly disappointing. Each aspect: the fighting, the drama, the humour is not quite on the same level. In addition, the intricacies of the lion dance contest might be lost on Western viewers. But if all you're wanting is a bit of escapism and spirited martial arts action, this is a fun film to watch.Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2002