review by Jerome

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Weaker entry to a landmark series...
The Chinese title of the film translates as Wong Fei Hung 3 and the fight to conquer the lion king. Jet Li reprises his role as Wong Fei Hung in this third film of the six films under the Chinese title Wong Fei Hung. The plot goes something like this. Amongst the foreign powers arriving in China, the Empress Dowager sets up a lion dancing competition in the hope of scaring them away. Meanwhile, Wong Fei Hung (Jet Li), 13th Aunt, Siu Kwan (Rosamund Kwan) and Leung Foon (Max Mok) travel to Peiking to visit Fei Hung’s father, Wong Kei Ying (Lau Shun) to discuss matters of his engagement to Siu Kwan. Wong Kei Ying’s Canton Club, famous for its lion dancing is almost eliminated by Chiu Tin Ba, Gwai Geuk Chat (Hung Yan Yan) and their gang. Despite the fact that the Canton Club is not a martial arts school, their lions are destroyed and Kei Ying is injured.

Jet Li’s portrays Wong Fei Hung as slightly stupid / naive when it comes to foreign inventions and when trying to explain Chinese culture to Siu Kwan’s former lover Tomansky (John Wakefield). E.g. when there is mention of the steam generator, he is completely dumbfounded. However, as with the first two Once Upon A Time in China films, Wong Fei Hung is given the noble job of stopping trouble. Such is the case, when he fights with different masters of various kung fu schools in the hope of trying to get them to co-operate with him in requesting that General Lei Hung Jeung postpone the Empress Dowager’s Lion Dance competition. Jet Li also shows the caring side to the real life perception of Wong Fei Hung, in recruiting Gwai Geuk Chat (Hung Yan Yan) as his disciple, after he is briefly crippled in an accident and disowned by Chiu Tin Ba.

Rosamund Kwan gives a good performance as 13th Aunt, Siu Kwan. Siu Kwan attempts to teach Fei Hung and Kei Ying the English language, by expressing “I love you”. The pronunciation of those three words is quite funny. Siu Kwan also meets her former Russian lover, Tomansky in Peiking. He still loves her, but he has other plans on the agenda, to assassinate General Lei Hung Cheung. When Siu Kwan, discovers his plot, she notifies Fei Hung and in both them, Foon and Kei Ying show up at the last round of the lion dance competition to thwart the assassination.

Max Mok gives some comedic relief in his performance as Leung Foon. Such an instance is when he hides a couple of spears in his pants only to have them hit his backside, when Fei Hung questions his motives on revenge for Kei Ying and the Canton Club. Foon is responsible for Gwai Geuk Chat’s crippling injuries and is compassionate to him when Fei Hung accepts him as a student.

Hung Yan Yan’s Gwai Geuk Chat, although initially a henchman from Chiu Tin Ba, is an expert in kicking and even though has ruined the chances for the Canton Club’s participation in the lion dancing competition, becomes part of Wong Fei Hung’s students. Suffering from crippling injuries, he learns what it is like to suffer physically and how to accept kindness and help from others.

The film’s many action sequences are choreographed by Yuen Bun, slightly differing from Yuen Wo Ping’s in the previous two films. Scenes that really stand out are the destruction of the lion masks, the fight in the street with all the lions from various triads and martial arts schools, the fight between Chiu Tin Ba and Wong Fei Hung in the restaurant with an oiled floor, and the final of lion dance competition.

Tsui Hark, just like in the previous two films has a strong political and historical emphasis as the main themes. It clearly shows that even today that China is still an emerging economic power. In other words, if your country does not adapt to change, they will be left behind, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon cultural traditions.

I rate it 7.5/10

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Genre: History / Kung Fu/ Action
Director: Director: Tsui Hark
Cast: Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Xiong Xin Xin (Hung Yan Yan), Max Mok, Lau Shun, John Wakefield.
Reviewed by Jerome (Bart), April 2006