The Unity of Heroes review by Bobby Blakey
In 1991 famed director Tsui Hark debuted his martial arts epic Once Upon A Time In China starring Jet Li. After the success of the film they teamed up for two more sequels before actor Vincent Zhao stepped in to replace Jet Li in the role of Wong Fei for the next two chapters in 1993 and 1994. Now Zhao is stepping back into the role once again for the film The Unity of Heroes co-starring Vini Li Lubing (Fascinated Love), Chen Chen, Li Bingyuan (Defying Chase, Tomb Robber), Wei Xiaohuan (The Grandmaster), Xu Zhengguo and Michael Tong (God of War, Tomb Robber), but is it a return worth fighting for or will it fail to do justice to the legend?
The Unity of Heroes follows a shipment of a narcotic more dangerous than opium is about to be distributed across the country by a corrupt pharmaceutical company. In the face of foreign and domestic enemies, can Wong Fei Hung stop the spread of this dangerous narcotic and save lives in time? I was pretty stoked to see Zhao return to this role and knew nothing about this feature, but had high expectations. Maybe too high as I did enjoy it, but as a whole it just didn’t deliver the level of action I had hoped. Make no mistake there are a ton of great fights here but nothing that really stands out like that of the past takes of the character.
The story was nothing like I expected which is often a good thing, but here it offers up almost a mix of silliness at times and an enhanced zombie like element that just felt out of place. While there are issues there is no doubt that Zhao still does a great job with the character and had they stuck to the build-up dueling schools they were going with as opposed to the additional over the top stuff that is infused it would have worked so much better. I think the unbalanced nature of the two stories is where it gets off and could have made up two films instead that would have worked all the better. That being said I still had a blast with it despite it being a bit ridiculous at times. This is no doubt due to my love all things martial arts and will likely not work for everyone.
This is one of those films that you have to watch and decide for yourself as everyone will react differently to it. If nothing else I hope this opens the door to keep Zhao back in this role and bring more action to the masses in the future.