There is a good film in True Legend, perhaps even two. The problem is that there is no real sense of rhythm in the storytelling. Sequences occur which are impressive and characters are engaging, but it jumps around and seems to lack direction. The main focus of the film is Yuen Woo Ping’s martial arts sequences, as he was responsible for the action in some of the most visually dynamic films of the last 15 years; Kill Bill, The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. As it was in those films, the action is spectacular in True Legend, though the direction seems to be lacking.
Originality is also somewhat of an issue. Even the fight sequences resemble other films, including the ones already mentioned. Even worse is the way the storyline resembles some recently successful Asian martial arts films, such as the IP Man franchise. The first 2/3 of the film has a different storyline, however. Su Can is a promising warrior who wants to quit fighting in order to raise a family, though his brother (Andy On) destroys this peaceful existence with jealousy and vengeance. Setting out to destroy his brother’s evil reign with the deadly Five Venom Fists, Su Can trains until he is nearly mad.
After finally concluding his battle with brother, Su Can moves on to become a drunk in villages. His drinking habit leads to a new martial arts style called Drunken Fist, which Su Can uses against foreigners who are brutally beating his people in unfair fights. This group is filled with American fighters (led by David Carradine), who use MMA to fight against the drunken boxing. This sequence is obviously added just to give us a little more of the story, but it doesn’t flow well with the first 2/3 of the film.