OF THE WOLF (1997-HK)
review by Neo
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style of art/action!
Donnie Yen is a postmodernist. Actually, he is just someone with a thinking mind about human condition and the world around him. Surely as seen in Ballistic Kiss, one would call Yen as some kind of postmodernist, but he is really not. Yes, it questions about what the hell is the word - world. The way he shot that movie, opened up my mind and began to realise that Yen is more than just - yet another martial artist trying to make it big in HK. While, the movie filled me with mixed emotions, it is a movie that I love and hate at the same time and perhaps, one movie that I can kind of relate to at the same time. Contradicting as it seems, Yen's directorial debut in Legend of the Wolf was less refined and less polish in terms of production values. His style of camera work and fast editing of furious fight scenes, was then rather new and perhaps only 2 other movies share the same style - Tsui Hark's The Blade and Wong Kar Wai's Ashes of Time. While this work will not reach the stances or status of either of them, it will stand well as the beginning or the rise of Donnie Yen, not just as yet another action star, but rather a thinking man director who loves drama.
The movie goes like this: The Legend of the Wolf! Donnie Yen stars as The Wolf, a legendary warrior who recounts the tale of his wayward youth to an upstart killer (Edmond Leung). Previously the Wolf wandered the Chinese countryside in search of his missing memories, and even when he chances across an old flame (Carman Lee), his past remains a mystery. But when an amoral mercenary (Lam Kwok Bun) shows up bearing the Wolf's terrible secret, the Wolf must fight to protect innocents from the approaching violence. High-energy, adrenaline-kicking action sequences highlight this impressive first effort from director Donnie Yen, who displays his expected form and power in the title role. Made for an exceptionally low budget, The Legend of the Wolf surpasses its resources and delivers a surprising, energetic action film.
Without a doubt, this movie is not about straight forward action, but rather an attempt by Yen to tell a story about something and perhaps a moral message at the end of the platform for the audience to take home with. While, I must admit, the moral message is questionably well conceived, but even if you don't get it or understand it, there is no question about the impact that this exhilarating, yet unconventional ride will leave you feeling. The fast moving and editing though may be what Yen's intended, actually seemed more like the result of having a very low and almost non-existent budget. That's exactly the reason that this movie has received mixed reviews throughout the last decade. Perhaps, the reason the movie is filmed like this way, is all because of the limited budget that Yen has on hand.
All in all, Legend of the Wolf, is a film that you either hate or love to the max, but never totally ambivalent about. Sure, it is made with low budget, but it shows a lot about Yen, both as a person and a director. Perhaps, the movie is really crap and that it is using mind numbing existential philosophy and karma to elevate it from looking like low budget. However, at the very end, people will be like who the hell cares, or actually talking up the film like I kind of did, but really, this isn't a piece of crap movie. Yen has his own style and he has shown us what he is capable of as seen in Ballistic Kiss, which shows his maturity as an actor and director, but while that and Legend stands as his better directorial work, it is both sad to realise that he went downhill from there, in terms directing, as you only needa think - that stupid Ekin Cheng and Twins movie about Rose... so let's forget that movie, and think about the moral message of this one - in life you don't always have to win, as sometimes the amount you win, by far exceeds the losses that you will endure...
I rate it 8/10
on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum
Genre: Martial Arts/Romance
Director: Donnie Yen
Cast: Edmond Leung | Dayo Wong | Donnie Yen
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo), July 2005