Fong Sai Yuk: The Beginning (新方世玉前传侠者无畏) (2020) - China
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)
With big boots to fill, the latest reboot of folk legend hero “Fong Sai Yuk”, made famous by Jet Li and Vincent Zhao in the 90s, it’s probably timely that the Chinese streaming giant takes an interest. Casting the fairly uncharismatic Narisu Bai in the title role remains the start of the long list of disappointment. For martial arts cinema fans, there is not enough action to sustain the paper thin story and not enough comedy to makes it a welcoming experience for international viewers. The result is a film that feels like an episode of Chinese drama than an epic film production.
Narisu Bai is non-comparable with either Jet Li or Vincent Zhao in both screen presence and martial arts prowess. Bai tries hard to impress in fight sequences, but none are refreshing to watch. The final fights remain the best part of the film. Sun Yueh makes a decent impression as one of the love interest and Norman Chu is wasted in an almost non-existent cameo. Chen Zhao-Hui is also criminally underused and almost unable to show his martial arts skills.
All in all, “Fong Sai Yuk: The Beginning” is an underwhelming attempt to rehash a classic folk legend without any of the elements that made the 90s movie and TV series a huge success. Bai is no Jet Li or Vincent Zhao and lacks the boyish charm required of the role. The love interests are also extremely forced and vague making this a good episode of Chinese TV drama than any resemblance of an actual martial arts epic movie. Watch the originals instead and stay with that.
I rated it 3/10