Yellow River Fighter (1988)

Directed by
A rare mainland Chinese wuxia film
Reviewed by Simon on 2024-02-04

In the warring states period three powerful lords are vying for control of the nation. After a fierce battle one lord has the other at the point of his sword when a passing hero intervenes to save him. He doesn't seek reward, being lost in grief, but a wandering showman befriends him and sees a chance for advantage when he learns that a lord owes him a debt.

Yellow River Fighter is one of the only other films made by the team that produced the Shaolin Temple films starring Jet Li, most of them being members or instructors on the Beijing Wushu Team. This film is a bit more of a wuxia, set in an earlier era and featuring predominantly weapons based fights, but it still has something of the vibe of the Shaolin films - and Yue Hoi does eventually pop up in monks robes.

Things start off a bit rough, with some amateurish choreography in the opening large scale battle and some cringey comedy from the young showman/beggar, but eventually the film finds its groove and becomes altogether more intense. The story gets more serious and the fight choreography improves immeasurably once the scale becomes smaller and the team's talented wushu athletes get chance to show their abilities.

There is a unique flavour to the film, imparted by the dramatic landscapes and the fighting style of the performers. It's a shame the mainland didn't produce more wuxia in this era, as the CGI-heavy modern Chinese wuxia films are absolutely nothing like this and I doubt many people have seen this one, even in China.