Wu Dang Blu Ray Review

Chinese cinema is exploding onto the scene, mirroring the financial successes that Mainland China is currently experiencing. With the second largest film industry second only to the United States, Mainland China is churning out some big budget and highly polished cinema. Introducing Wu Dang.

Set somewhere around 1930 in Mainland China, Wu Dang tells the story of Tang Yunlong, a Chinese archaeologist who has just returned from the USA. Upon his return, he finds himself in the middle of a dodgy second hand deal before punching his way out the back door, taking with him and ancient and seemingly mystical map. He and his daughter, Tang Ning, scarper away into the sacred mountains of Wu Dang where shenanigans and a healthy dose of fisticuffs ensue.

Wu Dang is very much a Chinese version of Indiana Jones. In fact, it could very well be renamed Indiana Jones and the Kung Fu Hustle with nary the bat of an eyelid. Comparisons aside, this is no Crystal Skull. Wu Dang brings with it a sense of urgency that assists in keeping the story rolling. That said, the story itself is a rather thin one. What we're given is a story about an archaeologist who is in the midst of hunting down a secret, lost treasure. Along the way we are introduced to a couple of new characters and a bonds are formed. Unfortunately the main character, played by Vincent Zhao, never quite delivers the emotional depth necessary to make this treasure hunt feel as though the stakes are as high as they should be.

Regardless of how high or low the stakes may be, Wu Dang is a very enjoyable film which seems to veer away from the recent tendency of Hong Kong/Chinese cinema to go big on every occasion. Wu Dang isn't an epic film. It doesn't have the cast of thousands like Reign of Assassins or The Myth, but instead seems to show restraint in focussing on only a small cast. One particular standout is Xu Jiao who plays Tang Yunlong's daughter, Tang Ning. She delivers a performance that balances strong arm kung fu, emotional vulnerability and a smattering of comedy which should come as no surprise following her comedic performance in Stephen Chow's CJ7.

The action in Wu Dang is pretty darn great and uses set pieces to full effect. There are a few scenes that occur indoors and the all in brawls that take place are stand out moments in the film. These battles seem to spill over from one room or terrace to the next, giving these sequences a sense of depth that is otherwise often forgotten. As should be expected, there is a hefty amount of wirework in this film. Unfortunately, having just watched the incredible Rurouni Kenshin, the wirework in Wu Dang felt a little ham-fisted, especially since the characters in this film are not of the pseudo-mystical variety like in films such as Shinobi.

Overall, Wu Dang is an enjoyable film but in no way does it break new ground. It manages to be worth the watch purely for the quality of performance, action sequences and production quality. If not for Xu Jiao's performance, the entire film would have fallen flat purely for its lack of emotional attachment. 

Wu Dang is available from Madman on Blu Ray and DVD.




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