I’ve seen a lot of Hong Kong action films over the years and one of the standout series out there, like Jackie Chan’s Police Story, is the Jet Li series Once Upon A Time In China, which is made up of six films, though Li is only in numbers one, two, three and six.
Despite that series being so well known, I had only ever seen the first two films but had wanted to see the rest of them, or at least numbers three and six, which are the other two starring Li. So when I had the chance to check out the DVD of number three, I thought it was a good time to see it as I’d recently re-watched the first two films for the first time in many years.
In many Hong Kong action films, which I will still say this one is even though it was filmed in Beijing, the storylines often play second fiddle to the action scenes. Now, that may also be true of this film, but the nice thing to see is that there are themes that run throughout the three films. Seeing that progression of the story does let you know that they do put care and attention into this aspect, but just not as much as into the action scenes.
This film also moved away from the normal ‘Li versus a main bad guy’ action fight at the end of the film and instead focused more on ‘Li versus large groups of opponents’, with the film culminating in a huge fight scene involving hundreds of people in Lion Dance outfits fighting it out with Li in the thick of it. So, for me, that’s also a sign that through the three films. they didn’t just want to do the same style of action over and over again, but instead have created a nice rounded arch of action and story.
8 out of 10 from me!!!