Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Martial Arts maestro Vincent Zhao is back as the role that made him known to the Western market - Wong Fei Hung! In-spite of the VOD release, this is a big thing to the martial arts world of fans. Exactly 24 years since Once Upon a Time in China ("OUATIC") 4 and 5, when the young and fresh Vincent Zhao took on the mountain of a mantle left behind by the legendary Jet Li. Since then, Vincent Zhao, unable to make a career in Hong Kong, left the shores and struggled to gain recognition in the Mainland. Now, fast forward to 2018, from the opening scene of Wong Fei Hung: The Unity of Heroes (2018), the sense of belonging, being Chinese, patriotic pride and the sense of unity and fight grows back to our minds. This is not a great film or possess any knit of originality, but sometimes, it is needed, it played like Tsui Hark's OUATIC 90s style and that's perfectly fine by me.
We all know how stoic and bland Vincent Zhao's portrayal of the famed folk legend can be, but with age and experience, Zhao excels and comes with a commanding screen presence. Its a big shame that his talent have been wasted for a good part of two decades, but like Wu Jing, hopefully, martial arts in China will become a new light of revitalization. Wei Ni takes on the Rosamund Kwan's role of Thirteenth Aunt with both beauty and youth, but lacks a coherence chemistry with the wooden Zhao. Hong Kong star Michael Tong gets a beefy role as the main villain and managed to hold his own against the more formidable martial arts prowess of Zhao.
No matter how you see this picture, this is a Vincent Zhao's vehicle with his footprints all over it. If the film did not stare Zhao, I would honestly have left it in the VOD pile of digital films. The fight scenes are well shot throughout and plentiful. The budget, props and sets are on par with most of the later OUATIC films. There is a lot to like and enjoy about this film, it reminds us of those wonderful martial arts films in the 90s. More importantly, Vincent Zhao is back!
I rated it 3.5/5