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Huo Yuan-Jia
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10 from N/A votes
Release: 12 Feb 1982 /

Huo Yuan-Jia

Genre: Action, History
Director: Woo-Ping Yuen,
Stars: ,
Synopsis: The story of Fok Yun Gap also know as Hou Yuan Chia one of China's greatest marital artists.

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Critic Reviews

LEGEND OF A FIGHTER (1982) is a superb kung fu film directed by Yuen Wo Ping, famous these days for his fight choreography for THE MATRIX and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. It has a clever plot based on the turn-of-the-century Chinese martial artist Huo Yuan Chia (Fok Yuen Gap in Cantonese). Young Huo secretly learns kung fu from a Japanese tutor who has his own hidden agenda, which is to learn Chinese martial arts by secretly watching Huo's father, who has forbidden his son to study the art. The tutor ingeniously incorporates the training into Huo's book learning, e.g. using kung fu moves in the art of calligraphy. Years later, after Huo has grown to manhood and become an expert martial artist, his tutor comes back into his life through a twist of fate which dictates that Huo face him, not as a student, but as an opponent. It all leads to a heart-wrenching ending.

Leung Kar Yan, a mainstay of Hong Kong kung fu films, plays Huo as a grown man. Yasuaki Kurata, a Japanese performer who made many Hong Kong films (and appears as the Japanese master who fights Jet Li in the countryside in FIST OF LEGEND), plays the Japanese tutor. Yuen Yat Chor plays young Huo and several members of the Yuen clan are involved in the fight scenes. Overall, it's a film boasting excellent martial arts sequences, good acting, lots of welcome humor, and a bit of historical detail. This is arguably the best of Yuen Wo Ping's early work (1978-82), a period which includes such formidable titles as THE BUDDHIST FIST, THE MIRACLE FIGHTERS and two early Jackie Chan hits, SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW and DRUNKEN MASTER. (Warning: the English-dubbed soundtrack on my VHS copy of LEGEND has more hardcore profanity on it than any kung fu movie I've ever seen.)

ADDENDUM (Nov. 16, 2007): I watched LEGEND OF A FIGHTER again to prepare me for FEARLESS, a 2006 film starring Jet Li as the same historical figure, Huo Yuan Chia, who is the subject of LEGEND. The big difference between the two films is that LEGEND spends a good portion on the boyhood and training of young Huo, while FEARLESS is more about his late adult life. The adult version of the character doesn't even appear in LEGEND until about halfway through the film, thus giving a greater sense of the boy's burning desire to learn kung fu and how much he worked and struggled to achieve his skill level and status. We appreciate his later victories all the more because we see how much he earned them. In FEARLESS, less than ten minutes is devoted to the character's boyhood and training. Before the movie's 15-minute mark, we already see Jet Li emerge as the grown-up, full-fledged wushu champ of Tianjin. Also, the character of the Japanese tutor, so significant in LEGEND, is completely absent from FEARLESS.

The fight scenes in LEGEND display the simple, direct approach of old-school fight filming--put the camera in place with a wide enough angle to show all the action and let the actors do their stuff. Unfortunately, the fights in FEARLESS are marred by signs of too much computer manipulation--sudden slowing down or speeding up, apparently done during the editing process rather than in the camera. There's also more wire work than I'm comfortable with and way too many pointless overhead shots. Yuen Wo Ping, the director of LEGEND, choreographed the fight scenes in FEARLESS, which came 24 years later, but he clearly had more control in the earlier film.

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