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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 7.69%
Just Average: 3.85%
Pretty Crappy: 23.08%
Sucks: 3.85%

1 review, 20 user ratings

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Once Upon a Time in China
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by Greg Muskewitz

"A re-visit doesn't make it any more welcome."
2 stars

A new re-vamped, re-subtitled re-issue of the 1991 Chinese blockbuster, “Once Upon a Time in China” is entering theaters once again. (Its sequel will be at the Ken halfway through the week to replace this one.) It also (or should I say, they also) were released about three weeks ago onto video (I’ve seen them at Hollywood), so if you wanted to go that route, you could, too, but the best route would just be to skip it altogether.

After the spectacularly shot opening of soldiers drilling during sunrise at the beach, “Once Upon a Time in China” offers nothing new from any other martial arts movie. This was the first of six movies in a series on Chinese legend Wong Fei-Hung (played by Jet Li in the first two), a Cantonese physician, educator and martial artist. The only of those that Fei-Hung is shown doing is the fighting. And lots of it — even for a legend-status, the tale is too tall. The focus of this was Britain’s control of Hong Kong, and many of the indigenous people learning they must “change their ways.” They learn the hard way (that “fists can’t fight guns”) and they seem to enjoy learning it over and over. The choreography is plain and unexciting, and the fight sequences are unmemorable, excessive and sub-standard. Expanded from 112-minutes to 134, the monotony of the fights take over very quickly, much like the S&M became in “Lies” earlier this year. This pre-Hollywood movie for director Tsui Hark (director of Van Damme vehicle “Maximum Risk”) hardly wins points for the action, and if any of his others are like this, how was he able to wind up in H’wood? One of the new additions to this version are the new translation of the subtitles; but when you watch what they are saying and how their lips are moving, they don’t match up. So how do we know that what the subtitles are telling us, are even what they’re saying. “Once Upon a Time in China” also utilizes the work of six separate cinematographers, and the look of the movie continues to radically alter throughout, none of which make it look good. One integral ingredient in any action/martial arts-oriented movie is the editing. The editing here is far from good, and the continuity is constantly thrown off from one shot to the next; we’re talking about different positioning of objects, object-size changes, characters disappearing and re-appearing. Where’s six people when you need them?

Jet Li is far more palatable in the upcoming “Kiss of the Dragon.”

With Yuen Biao, Rosamond Kwan, Kent Cheng, and not Jackie Chan, but rather Jacky Cheung. Written convolutedly (and still translated convolutedly) by Hark, Yuen Kai-chi, Edward Leung and Elsa Tang.


Final Verdict: D+.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5406&reviewer=172
originally posted: 06/30/01 22:11:40
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User Comments

3/16/20 FUKA TOYOKAWA One word: "Awesome," Jet Li's legend begins with this movie! 5 stars
5/17/19 Ha Martial Arts movie MASTERPIECE!! Tsui Harks best movie! Aweful review by junk reviewer 5 stars
11/26/12 Chris conley Greg, pack your things up and quit as a reviewer. 5 stars
10/13/10 zen once upon a time in china is a very nice movie. 5 stars
5/19/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Greg Muskewitz just lost his credibility as a critic 5 stars
6/19/08 zvelf This reviewer seems to know nothing about Hong Kong cinema or martial arts films 5 stars
6/19/08 Finn hahaha Kiss of the Dragon better than Once Upon a Time in China! Is this The Onion? 5 stars
2/17/08 wong this reviewer is a douchebag....this movie was awesome!! 5 stars
8/17/07 Eric Rahn This review must have come from Bizzaro-World 5 stars
1/01/06 Mike This movie only gets better 5 stars
7/10/05 Harry The reviewer doesn't know martial arts films 4 stars
1/28/05 erika WHEEEEEE! 5 stars
1/28/05 Derek Stuhan A brilliant movie and best understood by one who knows Hong Kong cinema 5 stars
11/02/04 Brendon The Best Epic Kung Fu movie of all time - do not believe this horrible review. 5 stars
6/02/04 The Bearded Swordsman As much fun as beards. And swords. 5 stars
1/20/03 Andy Bronson tsui harks best film needs repeated viewing to appreciate how great it is 4 stars
1/23/02 Chairul Afni Yusuf Very good 3 stars
1/16/02 Waylon Roundtree An all-time classic of the genre, and I've seen a lot of martial arts films. 5 stars
9/05/01 BloodSaber overrated, practically elevating a normal man into godhood. 1 stars
7/02/01 Senor Suave this was a fantastic saturday afternoon action video, and I'll be there to see it large. 5 stars
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  01-Jan-1991 (R)



Directed by
  Tsui Hark

Written by
  Yiu Ming Leung
  Pik-yin Tang
  Tsui Hark
  Kai-Chi Yun

  Jet Li
  Biao Yuen
  Rosamund Kwan
  Jacky Cheung
  Steve Tartalia
  Kent Cheng

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