Legend of the Wolf | aka The New Big Boss (1997) Review

"Legend of the Wolf" Japanese DVD Cover

"Legend of the Wolf" Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Donnie Yen
Producer: Donnie Yen
Cast: Donnie Yen, Dayo Wong, Carman Lee, Ben Lam Kwok Bun, Edmond Leung, Mak Wai Cheung, Bonnie Lai, Tony Tam, Kenji Tanigaki, Mandy Chan Chi Man, Hoh Choi Chow
Running Time: 90 min.

By Joe909

Ah, Donnie Yen: the Dolph Lundgren of Hong Kong cinema. The Boston-bred brat finally proves himself with this one, an old-school type kung-fu flick with a modern edge. Donnie goes the full mile, producing, directing, and starring in this often-hated, sometimes-liked underground classic.

I like this movie a lot. The plot’s standard, the directing is passable, the budget obviously wasn’t very high, and even the “artistic” way in which the movie unfolds, via incongrous flashbacks within flashbacks, doesn’t really help things. But all that aside, you still have a fairly decent movie with excellent action. Each kung-fu battle is good enough to be the “end fight” in any other martial arts film. The shots are sometimes too close or too blurry, and the editing is as jarring as MTV’s, but it still looks great.

Donnie pulls a “Van Damme” here, with plenty shots of himself bare-chested and flexing. But I’m sure that’s just for the ladies, right, Donnie? Anyway, he pulls off some impressive martial arts. He starts the film doing a basic movie style, but as the film progresses he adopts what seems to be a jeet kune do approach, even mimicking Bruce Lee’s war cries. Perhaps this is why Legend of the Wolf is called “The New Big Boss” in parts of the UK.

Just about every fight in this movie is a highlight, but the best is the sequence that begins with Donnie chasing through a forest after his enemies, and culminates in him taking on his main rival beside a waterfall. The running fight in the forest is one of the best Hong Kong action sequences ever, with Donnie taking on legions of henchmen, a guy with a revolver, and a guy who fights with claws. The sequence proves that there’s still some amazing things going on in Hong Kong cinema.

As an aside, the dvd release is terrible; it’s full-frame with no menu selections or extras. Plus the subs are burned into the print, just like they were back in the pre-dvd days. At least the chapters are numbered, so you can skip from fight to fight, cutting out the extraneous moments of “plot advancement” and getting right to the good stuff.

Joe909’s Rating: 8.5/10

By Numskull

I had a dozen reasons to dislike this movie, but I liked it anyway. It’s a spiffy little tale of blood and cheese directed by Donnie Yen, whose talent is more evident here than in the bland Ballistic Kiss (the film with the greatest literal title of all time: “Kill Some People Dance A Little”).

Donnie Yen is Fung Man-hin, an amnesiac with (surprise) tremendous fighting prowess. He wanders around seeking out temples…don’t ask why…and befriends a local rogue named Wai (Chi Wah Wong). Violence seems to follow in his footsteps as marauders plague him incessantly…but for what reason, he does not know. This story takes place shortly after World War II, with somewhat nonsensical modern-day segments presenting it in the past tense.

The film opens with an MTV-style fight; dark and ridiculously fast with way too many cuts. This isn’t necessarily just bad film making on Yen’s part, though. At this point, the viewer isn’t SUPPOSED to know what the hell is going on.

Actually, ALL of the fights in this movie are sped up to some degree, unless you count Wai’s slow motion scuffle with some other villagers during the old woman’s prayer (“Yes! Kick him in the dick!”). In a lesser film, this would piss me off, but Legend of the Wolf has some not-quite-definable, cheese-flavored X-factor that makes you just go along with it. Maybe it’s Chi Wah Wong’s charismatic performance. Maybe it’s the catchy and memorable musical score. Maybe it’s the fact that almost every scene is shot in either black and blue (like many modern HK films) or in various shades of orange. But it sure as hell isn’t the crappy romantic element with Man-hin’s old sperm receptacle Wai-yee (Carman Lee) filling him in on the details of their past together and trying to turn unrequited love into…uh, regular love. Why must they always ruin perfectly serviceable stories by adding this garbage? I swear, when I rule the world every hack screenwriter out there is gonna change their tune on this subject or else be relegated to careers in the field of picking the scabs off of STD-afflicted porn stars’ genitals.

If undercranking annoys you regardless of its extent or of the quality of the actual fighting, perhaps the sheer amount of combat here will at least partially redeem the film in your eyes. Wither goest Donnie Yen, so cometh carnage. Wai gets in on some of the action, too; the scene where he valiantly tries to defend the villagers from slaughter-happy bandits is a highlight. Man-hin’s numerous duels are also very enjoyable.

I had my doubts, but I was pleasantly surprised. A good time killer.

Numskull’s Rating: 7/10

By Vic Nguyen

Donnie Yen embarks on his directorial debut with this low-budget martial arts actioner that is low on brains and high on action.Yen stars as the legendary Wolf, a martial artist whose exploits are recounted through a series of flashbacks peppered throughout the duration of this film. The screenplay is one big cliche; the main characters are uninteresting, the villains are tedious and unmotivated, and it also uses the old amnesia subplot which has been done to death. Even the performances are below par, which is a given considering the quality of the script. Yet despite these obvious shortcomings, it’s the action sequences that makes this film worthwhile. They are plentiful (there are no less than 4 big bouts), well choreographed, highly stylized (eg. Tsui Hark’s The Blade), and do a good job showcasing Yen’s fabulous bootwork. All in all, a flawed, but entertaining piece that is worth the rental for the martial arts alone.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 5.5/10

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One Response to Legend of the Wolf | aka The New Big Boss (1997) Review

  1. boa tarde! tudo bem , eu sou surdo, que gostaria de filmes para donnie yen para eu quero compra um dvds para filmes, que eu quero só que filmes para donnie yen. por favor o seu e-mail para mim. muito obrigado.

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