Once Upon A Time In China 3 (1993)

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The Chinese government call a martial arts tournament and the local triad gangs use violence and intimidation to ensure victory. Enter Jet Li to address the situation and foil an assassination plot in the process.

Continuing the exceedingly tall story of Wong Fei-hung, Tsui Hark learned his lesson from the previous film, making the comedy less crude and childish and tempering the melodrama while playing more to his strengths; namely action and visual spectacle and the sight of a horde of Chinese dragons battling in the streets is certainly one of the most colourful spectacles you are ever likely to see. Unfortunately the sea of costumes, masks and flowing fabric means it’s extremely difficult to tell what’s going on and the result is messy and confusing. The appeal of these films is clearly Jet Li’s skill as a martial artist but more often than not his performance is obscured by the visual trappings. The assassination plot also feels like an afterthought and another excuse to vilify foreigners – the Russians this time.

The beautiful production design and breakneck pace means that once again the film never feels boring, but there are far better showcases of Jet Li’s abilities out there.

5.5/10

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