Chivalrous Legend (1999)

Directed by
Enjoyable period piece
Reviewed by Simon on 2012-06-07

Looks like a companion piece to Heavenly Legend (from the same year) as it features the same 3 leads, but proves to be a quite different film. No young monkey kings or deadly fart attacks here, but a sober - even grim - tale of a kid who grows up in Japanese occupied Taiwan to become a hero for the people. No kids movie here.

After being set free from slavery, Liu TienDin returns home at just the wrong moment to find his mother dying from a wound inflicted by a Japanese soldier intent on raping her. After taking revenge for her death, Liu flees and is taken in by a travelling circus run by Blackie Ko. As they travel the land, he becomes increasingly pissed off by the suffering of the Taiwanese under the Japanese.

In his childhood, Liu TienDin is played by kung fu wonderkid Shieh Shiao Long, who unfortunately doesn't get as much chance to show his impressive skills as he might have done before 9 years pass and he's grown up to be Jimmy Lin. A decade from now I really hope that Shiao Long is still in movies, and that he gets chance to show the world how proper martial arts films are made again. For now, Jimmy Lin is no Jet Li but he handles himself quite well in the action scenes.

CHIVALROUS LEGEND is very much the kind of movie that you thought HK didn't make anymore... a period piece with a strong national hero defending his country with his kung fu, etc. In another life might have been the world's Once Upon A Time In China, had the early 90's not happened. OK, admittedly it doesn't have the ground breaking style of Tsui Hark behind it, nor the manic pace and invention that characterised the wuxia boom, but it's a refreshing hark back to those movies regardless. I don't want to mislead - there isn't a huge amount of action in the movie - in fact the narrative is definitely the main focus, but it's a good narrative and the action bits are a nice sweetener.

It seems to be a movie that's made well under the radar of those US studios who are looking to exploit HK talented, and of the talent that's looking to be exploited. Ironically, it's got a lot more of the HK charm than those who are deliberately trying to buy or sell it are likely to find :)