Fong Sai Yuk 方世玉 (1993) - Hong Kong
As part of the ongoing Film Critics - Martial Arts series - “Discovering the world of Martial Arts cinema”
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Made at the height of Jet Li’s rise to fame after the “Once Upon a Time in China” series. Li wisely teams up with action director Corey Yuen for this Hong Kong martial arts classic. A much lighter version of folk hero than Wong Fei Hung, “Fong Sai Yuk” is every part playful, enjoyable, melodramatic and plenty of brilliant fight scenes. There is a lot to enjoy about this classic martial arts epic, from the mother and son relationship, the cute couple chemistry and the numerous creative fight sequences staged by Corey Yuen and with Jet Li and Vincent Zhao at their poetic best. If Wong Fei Hung made Jet Li’s famous, it is Fong Sai Yuk that reinvented his career and allowed it to flourish without a label.
Jet Li is simply outstanding as the boyish and playful folk hero and carries the role with both charisma and plenty of charm. Josephine Siao plays the mother and together with Li shares a wonderful chemistry on screen as mother and son. It is the central core to the success of the film. We also see the introduction of martial artist Vincent Zhao who plays the lead villain with menacing effect. His fights with Li remains one of those many 90s martial art cinematic moments. Michelle Reis appears in a beautiful flower vase role.
All in all, “Fong Sai Yuk” is easily one of the best 90s folk hero martial arts classic. Director Corey Yuen will form an exquisite partnership with Jet Li for decades to come, managed to balance all the elements of a great entertaining movie. If there is a favourite Jet Li’s movie, this one easily qualifies due to its immense fun, timeless enjoyment and terrific fight sequences to boot. Hong Kong cinema at its greatest pride.
I rated it 9/10