The Magic Crane (1993)

Directed by
Not Film Workshop's finest hour
Reviewed by Simon on 2024-02-07

The Magic Crane is one of many similar films released in Hong Kong between 1990 and 1994, when a new wave of high-flying wuxia exploded in the wake of Swordsman. Like that film, this was produced by Tsui Hark's Film Workshop, usually a good signal of quality and/or entertainment. This effort is one of their least noteworthy films though.

The story is the usual affair of rival clans vying for control of the martial arts world using outrageous mystical wuxia powers, and on occasion with the aid of a giant crane (that's not usual business, that's pretty much unique to this). Tony Leung Chiu-Wai plays the good-natured member of a small sect who gets caught in the middle, and the rest is basically predictable if you've seen or read any of these stories.

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is a man of many talents but comedy is not the best of them, and this role in particular doesn't suit him well. It feels like it might have worked well as a Stephen Chiau film... perhaps it was intended to be one but they couldn't get him, or perhaps it was just riding the zeitgeist.

Anita Mui fits her character better, but it's not much different from her role in Moon Warriors, and she shone brighter in that one.

With all the wild wuxia films HK released in this era, The Magic Crane doesn't add enough to be very noteworthy. The special effects are pretty janky, below the standard of Zu: Warriors Of The Magic Mountain a decade earlier really, and whilst there is plenty of zany action it just feels like Ching Siu-Tung B-roll footage.

It's almost the only wuxia directed by Benny Chan - better known for modern day action, but still a relative newcomer at this point in his career. I guess he wasn't too pleased with the outcome, as it would apparently be many years before he felt the urge to dabble in the genre again.