Wu Dang Blu-ray Review
Directed by Patrick Leung
Written by Chan Khan
2012, Region A, 101 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on December 4th, 2012
Vincent Zhao as Tang Yunlong
Yang Mi as Tian Xin
Fan Siu-wong as Shui He-Yi
Josie Xu as Tang Ning
Our story begins in 1930s China, where representatives from all surrounding provinces are eagerly making the journey to Wu Dang Mountain for a martial arts competition held once every five hundred years. Legend has it that hidden in various locations on the mountain are seven treasures that when placed together reveal a magical property.
Archaeology professor Tang Yunlong is making the trip to Wu Dang Mountain with his daughter Tang Ning, who will be competing in the event. He will cheer her advances through the tournament while facing his own adventure; collecting the seven treasures. Having recently acquired a map to the secret artifacts that some collectors may view as priceless, the professor has a much more urgent need for their powers.
Tang is not alone in his private quest however, as the mysterious and lovely Tian Xin is also in search of an object once owned by her family. She is a clever thief and accomplished fighter, using her participation in the event as cover in an attempt to regain the heirloom. Outside elements force her and the professor to work together in order for either to succeed in their quest.
Shui He-Yi is a reluctant participant in the competition, but was personally chosen by the monastery’s master as their representative. The hesitation stems from a total lack of martial arts skills and the need to care for his sick mother. The elder monk cures the woman so her son can focus on his training, starting with a new style that is absorbed through sleeping. As his training intensifies, his mother attempts to play match-maker for He-Yi and a fellow competitor.
Legendary action director Corey Yuen choreographs two styles of fight scenes for Wu Dang, the first being the martial arts ceremony that has brought everyone to the mountain, which offers sequences of direct competition and elements of more traditional and formal fighting styles. Those in pursuit of the treasure however, face a more deadly threat as Yuen presents a different tone to the Wu Dang guardians’ attempts to foil the thieves with an endless array of exceptional action sequences. The fights employ a generous dose of wire-work, but the overall effect is one of fluidity in movement with the occasional overstep into gravity defying.
Chan Khan’s screenplay feels desperate to entertain all audiences, but ultimately stumbles along the way by throwing in too many ingredients. In addition to the awkward love interest clichés, the finale features an over-the-top CGI spurt of colors in a special effects bonanza that tests the viewer’s patience. Director Patrick Leung (Beyond Hypothermia) keeps things moving at a nice speed whenever he dodges those clunky subplots and lets the central storyline breathe.
The ensemble cast works well together and genre fans will be particularly pleased to see Fan Siu-wong (Ricki-Oh) as Shui He-Yi, the reluctant warrior, given the opportunity to create a truly sympathetic character. Vincent Zhao (Once Upon a Time in China 4) and the gorgeous Yang Mi (Painted Skin: Resurrection) do the majority of the heavy lifting and share a great chemistry and shine during their numerous action scenes.
At the end of the night, Wu Dang is an exercise in frustration because you can see a lot of what was good in the concept getting saddled by bunk. Somehow Leung manages to keep this epic under two hours and that is commendable, but it is unfortunate to think of all the missed opportunities in this film which overreaches its means.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Wu Dang receives a pretty amazing transfer, complete with natural flesh tones, well balanced levels of colors and black space. Contrast levels are free of artifacts and macroblocking while fine details remain sharp.
The film is given a DTS 5.1 HD Mandarin language mix that really brings the ruckus during the numerous fight sequences. A 2-channel Dolby Digital Mandarin mix is also provided, but stick with the more aggressive surround option. Rear channels are almost constantly in use and given an occasional low-end bump during the more thunderous moments. Dialogue remains free of distortion and English subtitles are provided in case you need them.
Well Go USA offers a traditional behind-the-scenes ‘making of’ featurette (30 minutes) that provides interviews with members of the cast and crew while offering a look at the extensive fight choreography for the film. The piece appears to be three separate shorts cut together as one, complete with repeated interview clips and redundant clips from the feature.
The original trailer is the only other bonus feature.