The Magic Crane

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This is one of those Hong Kong movies which seems to believe that if they cram in enough complications and characters, you’ll overlook the deficiencies. They’re kinda right: if you can let go (I did, Chris couldn’t), you will enjoy this a whole lot more, though here, it’d take five times as much plot to make you ignore the truly woeful titular bird. There would seem to have been confusion in the prop department over whether the request for a “giant crane” meant a bird or a piece of construction equipment: it looks as if they split the difference, building something with feathers, which remains (painfully) obviously mechanical.

All the kung-fu masters are getting together to carve out territories; Leung and Lau represent about the smallest school imaginable, but are befriended by Pak Wan Fai (Mui), a mysterious lady who rides the crane. Her foster-sister (Kwan) has been building resentment for 20+ years, and inevitably, someone else is plotting to wipe out all their martial-arts rivals. The battles are great, and most of the characters too (among the supporting cast, especially memorable is Jan Lau’s engagingly slutty Lady Jade Flute, who brings a Basic Instinct approach to her kung-fu) – but there are way too many, and the same goes for the plot elements (Killer bats? A guy with no legs in a well?). Less would certainly be more; instead, they don’t get the attention they deserve. As you’d expect from a Tsui Hark production, the visual side is stylish and impressive – just don’t look for a high degree of coherence.

Dir: Benny Chan
Star: Tony Leung, Anita Mui, Rosamund Kwan, Damian Lau

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