Once Upon A Time In China 3
HONG KONG LEGENDS
 
Starring:
Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Hung Yan-Yan, Mok Siu-Cheung
Directed By:
Tsui Hark
Year:
1993
Run Time:
107 mins
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles:
English, Dutch
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
2.35:1 Anamorphic
Region:
2 & 4 PAL
Genre:
Martial Arts / Drama / Wire-Work - 12 (UK)
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MOVIE
7/10

In late 1993 Tsui Hark completed his much acclaimed Wong Fei-Hung trilogy.
Following two of Hong Kong cinemas most impressive and exhilarating movies, Once Upon A Time In China 3 always had a lot to live up to, and unfortu
nately it fails to come close to its predecessors.
Whilst the plot is interesting enough, involving the attempted assassination of the Chinese Governor by the visiting Russian powers, the film lacks the coherence evident in parts 1 and 2.

The only aspects of the production which really work well, are those which involve the development of the characters, particularly Fei-Hung, 13th Aunt and Club Foot.
My favourite moment of the series is found near the film's end, as Fei-Hung finally realises he can no longer hide his feelings for 13th Aunt, embracing her in front of his students and family.
It's such a beautifully acted and directed scene that I'm unable to do it justice here, suffice to say that it's one of the highlights of the film.

The intricate, imaginative and thrilling choreography which became synonymous with the first two movies fight scenes is done away with following the appointment of new action director Yuen Bun. Dull, uninvloving action is featured throughout, with some very obvious wirework making for combat sequences which lack any of the excitement or tension seen in Parts 1 or 2.
Worse still is the apparent lack of creativity shown by Yuen Bun, as Fei-Hung either reuses the same 'take of your jacket and use it to hit people' shtick, or trades generic kicking techniques with his opponents.
Some of Club Foot's over the top kicking manoeuvres impress, but ultimately it's all rather heartless, and boring.

Having seen the stunning Lion Dance choreography showcased in films such as The Young Master, I'm also astounded by how poor the Lion Dance contest scenes are. The final sequence featuring a multitude of extravagantly designed Lions, runs out of steam within a few minutes and makes for a desperately uninteresting finale to a wonderful trilogy.

PICTURE
6/10

This is one of the most disheartening HKL transfers I've had to review for some time.
As soon as I started to watch the movie, an obvious and very disappointing aspect of the picture became noticeable:
Whilst detail is superb when there is little movement on-screen, as soon as things are set in motion, detail levels drop dramatically.
This is somewhat similar to the "smearing" effect I've witnessed on certain Universe and Mei-Ah titles, and leads to a very soft image. Added to this are a handful of scenes which appear very blurry and dated.

It's a real shame that these problems are so evident, as in other areas this transfer excels. It's free from grain, artifacts and marks, and reproduces Andrew Lau's excellent cinematography extremely well.
But these positive points still fail to make up for what is one of HKLs most disappointing transfers in a long while.

SOUND
7/10

A few directional effects are evident, but this is generally a restrained re-mix.
Dialogue is focused at the centre speaker, and remains clear and distortion free.
Other than that, there is little more to say about the soundtrack, other than it does its job without any fuss.

SUBTITLES
4/10

Oh dear, oh dear...These subs really are a major step back for HKL.
Purposely mistranslated dialogue and rejigged names appear throughout, with Kung-Fu terms also being completely ignored in favour of 'fake' translations.

One of the most ludicrous name changes has to be that of Sap-Saam Yee/13th Aunt (Rosamund Kwan).
In HKL's previous Once Upon A Time In China DVDs, Fei-Hung's sweetheart is correctly called 13th Aunt.
Now however, she is called "Cousin Yee".
Also, although not a proper translation of his Chinese name, the Western version of Hung Yan-Yan's character has always been called 'Club Foot'. Here, it's 'Iron Foot'.

There are also numerous mistranslations and simplifications of dialogue, and I really have little positive comment to make about the subs other than that they're grammatically fine and easy to read.

MENUS
10/10

As with Once...1 & 2, the animated menus found on this disc are superb - easily up there with HKLs best. Wonderfully scored and designed, they really do justice to the flavour of the film.

EXTRAS
7/10

Photo Gallery

A reasonable selection of 20+ stills from the film.

Biography Showcase

No...it can't be?! A Jet Li biography which is entirely text based!! No voice-over man!!
At last, Hong Kong Legends have seen the light, and provide a very detailed account of Jet's career and film-making highs and lows in a format which is so much better than all of their previous efforts - well done!

Trailer Selection

UK Promo Trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer
Once Upon A Time In China UK Promo Trailer
Once Upon A Time In China 2 UK Promo Trailer

Interview Gallery

Tsui Hark
A rather generic interview with the film's director, which covers a number of different films Tsui has worked on, his views on film-making, and his role as a producer, director and actor.
Sadly, only a few minutes centre on his Wong Fei-Hung movies, with Tsui only talking in general terms about the series, rather than discussing part 3 specifically.

John Wakefield
This 10 minute interview is conducted with the actor who plays 13th Aunt's Cantonese-speaking Russian friend from the film. John comes across as an eloquent man, and highlights the good and bad points of working on the film, making for a interesting extra.

Commentary

Another excellent, fact-packed addition from Bey Logan which manages to include some much needed information regarding Lion Dancing.

CUTS / CHANGES

A cut of 4 seconds has been made.
The scene affected is the one in which Fei-Hung kicks the leg of the horse on which Chiu Tin-Bai is riding. This is shown briefly, but the actual shot of the horse falling has been removed.
Whilst the cut doesn't have a massive impact on the film, the scene makes far more sense with the horse falling than without.
This DVD version of the film is also the shorter, Hong Kong cut of the movie. I originally saw the longer Taiwanese version on VHS, and although you're not missing anything obvious, the additional footage makes for a slightly better film.

CONCLUSION
6/10

Falling short of parts 1 and 2, Once Upon A Time In China 3 still has enough to recommend its viewing - not least the superb ensemble acting and the conclusion to Fei-Hung and 13th Aunt's romance.
However, in much the same way that this movie fails to live up to its predecessors, so does this disc, and as such is worth no more than a rental.

MOVIE
7/10
PICTURE
6/10
SOUND
7/10
SUBTITLES
4/10
EXTRAS
7/10
MENUS
10/10
PACKAGING
8/10
OVERALL
6/10