• Rise Of The Legend

    Released By:
    Well Go USA
    Released On: May 24, 2016.
    Director: Roy Hin Yeung Chow
    Cast: Eddie Peng, Sammo Hung, Angelababy
    Year: 2014
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    The Film:

    Whether you realize it or not, the story of legendary Chinese asskicking grandmaster Wong Fei-hung has been told dozens of times in films that you've probably seen, most notably the Once Upon A Time In China series. With over 20 years having passed since the last time the character had a major appearance in a film, writer Chi-long To and Director Roy Hin Yeung Chow decided it was time to bring the martial arts master back to the big screen. And so, 2014 brings us Rise Of The Legend, starring Eddie Peng as Fei.

    Taking some pretty heavy artistic liberties with history, the film introduces us to "Little Fei" a young Chinese boy who lives with his doctor father in a "hall of medicine"...a hospital-like building that also serves as an orphanage. Little Fei is no stranger to the tragedies of the world, witnessing first-hand the patients that his father is not able to save, and the deaths of honest workers at the hands of the evil Master Lei (Sammo Hung) and his ruthless Black Tiger Gang. When his childhood girlfriend Little Fa is sold off to Master Lei for purposes that Fei is too young to understand, he's forced to do a lot of growing up, but it's the death of his father in a fire at the hall of medicine...set by Lei's gang...that gives Fei and his young friend Little Fiery their life's purpose.

    Taken in by a martial arts teacher, Fei and Fiery live in a cave and learn the ways of the fist. But kicking wholesale ass isn't the only goal of the discipline, and the two remain for a number of years until they master the philosophy behind the art and decide to forego bloothirsty vengeance for a more elaborate plan. While Fiery joins the Orphan Gang, Fei goes straight for recruitment into the Black Tiger Gang and ends up working for Master Lei, battling the North Sea Gang for control over Guangzhou Pier. Literally bringing the head of the North Sea Gang to Lei after beating the unholy hell out of the majority of their army, Fei becomes Lei's fourth adopted son. Now more trusted than Lei's actual sons, Fei sets his sights on the Black Tiger Gangs' massive, silver-filled vault, and begins his plan of turning the brothers against each other. As more and more bodies turn up in the harbour and the city burns, Wong Fei-hung slowly brings down Lei's empire from the inside.

    Rise Of The Legend has a few things going for it, notably the intense fight choreography orchestrated by Corey Yuen, known for his work on a billion martial arts films. For the most part, the fight scenes are compelling and cut well, and exactly what people come to a film like this looking for. The acting is also above average across the board, with Peng turning in a fantastic performance as Fei, and Sammo intimidating as Lei...and still proving that he has the chops to smack a few deserving folks around. With such a huge cast, Rise Of The Legend does quite well in having no shoddy performances, whatsoever. The locations/set dressing are nicely done as well...when they don't let CGI get the best of them, creating an authentic-looking port town.

    But speaking of CGI...this is the primary area in which Rise Of The Legend fails. Some scenes rely so heavily on computer graphics that it gives the film a look that resembles a video game...and not a newish, realistic looking game, more like the Sierra PC games of old. A lot of CGI is also incorporated unnecessarily into the fight scenes, which, when combined with overuse of the clashing steel sound...yeah, that one that sounds like it came off of Robert Palmer's Simply Irresistible...cheapens the film substantially. While you can usually overlook a good portion of this, especially in today's films where it's become commonplace, Rise Of The Legend places digital effects so heavily into the final battle that it's maddening. Technology can be a good thing, but it's not used to good effect here.

    Rise of the Legend's other area of non-expertise is the sequencing of the film. Though the direction is quite adequate, there are so many flashbacks in this one, it becomes confusing. And once we take the backstory out of the way, we realize that there's really not much to Rise Of The Legend, outside of a few fancy battle scenes that are ultimately compromised by CGI. Adding in the bluish look that so many generic martial arts films carry as their aesthetic these days doesn't help the film rise to any stature past that of average action flick. A lack of engaging story, a look that's shared with so many other films, too much intrusive CGI...and bogged down by an overlong 132 minute running time means that by the time Rise Of The Legend is finished, we're glad to be done with it. Not quite the impression you want to be left with.


    Well Go USA brings Rise Of The Legend to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 AVC encoded transfer that is pretty much on par for most of Well Go's more recent output. The film exudes a bluish look throughout most of the running time, with blacks leaning towards this cold palette and not a whole range of colour going on for the most part. Daytime scenes, however, look fairly dynamic and detail is sharp throughout with no compression artifacts.

    The primary audio track is a Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 outing (Mandarin DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1/2.0 are also available) that perfectly suits the video with an immersive experience in surrounds that particularly come to life during the battle scenes. The modern film viewer will also appreciate the numerous LFE bass drops that rattle the subs. Though heavy on the rear speakers, the track doesn't compromise dialogue at all, which remains clear and coherent up front. No distortion or other issues are present.

    English subs are available as well.

    The main extra on the disc is a Making Of (10:42) that is curiously split into five sections....Characters, Eddie Peng, Injuries, Cinematography, and Special Effects. Director Roy Hin Yeung Chow is on hand through most of these to talk about Wong Fei-Hung and the actors in the film, and other players such as Eddie Peng and Sammo Hung talk about the roles that they played, the physical demands of the shoot, locations, and mixing CGI with new camera technology and practical effects. Truth be told, this feature is a bit of a pain to watch, as the subtitles, mixed with text identifying the speakers, tends to fly so fast and furious that you need to have a finger on the pause button to catch it all. Add to that the fact that each segment is so short, yet has an animated intro, allows virtually no time for any substantial information of value to be presented.

    A Trailer for the Film rounds out the extras.

    The Final Word:

    Heavy on the choreographed action, Rise Of The Legend focuses on smoke and mirrors and sacrifices story, maintaining the generic martial arts film aesthetic that's become far too prevalent in recent years.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!