“Desperately in need of more kick.”
Hanging on the wall of the training gym in this film, is a banner on which is written in large letters: “WTF”. I imagine this is probably supposed to stand for “World Taekwondo Federation”, but it’s an unfortunate acronym for any organization. Says quite a bit that this is perhaps the most memorable thing, in what is not far from a Chinese knock-off of one of the more forgettable American martial-arts flicks of the 80’s, Best of the Best. Lingling (Huang) shows up one day at a failing taekwondo school run by Zhao Yumin (Liu), and asks to be trained for the national championships, even though she’s never fought before. Zhao sets her an impossible challenge, but when Lingling succeeds, is forced to take her on. As the rest of the film unfolds, we discover why the gym is failing – a former pupil died in a previous championship bout against the cockily brutal Gao Zhi (Cheng) – and also the reason for LingLing’s sudden interest in martial arts. If you’ve seen Best, you’ll probably be there already.
To give you some idea of how generally lame this is, the “impossible challenge” set for the heroine is… to go to a railway station and buy a ticket. We’re given no idea of why this is supposedly such a feat, because we don’t get to see any of it. Maybe it’s surrounded by a pit of crocodiles or something. Huang is also pretty unconvincing, with arms like twigs: before her climactic battle, we get to see her in one bout, which she wins with a gimmick move, so the viewer is never given any reason to feel that she has a realistic chance against Gao. That’s especially the case, after the only martial arts worthy of note, which is when he comes to the gym and basically demolishes an entire platoon of trainees.
The rest of the time is little more than a parade of martial-arts clichés, with Xie far too over-fond of the training montage as a cinematic device. Admittedly, my school of thought says “once” is about the limit, and you’d better have a good reason for doing it that often. Still, it’s in line with the other aspects: the characters are uninteresting, performances nothing special and, with the sole exception noted above, the fight sequences do little to generate excitement or interest. I note that the film is conveniently missing from Gordon Liu’s filmography on the IMDb: if I were in his shoes, I’d probably hope it stays that way.
Dir: Xie Yi
Star: Eva Huang, Gordon Liu, Mark Cheng, Daniel Chan