If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Two brothers from the Peking Opera House travel to Shanghai in the 1920's to seek vengeance against the master of the Shanghai Opera House, for destroying their school. As the two brothers garner more and more fame, the slights of their past begin to unravel their future.
My Kingdom follows Guan-Yi (Chun Wu) a young orphan being raised by the master of the Peking Opera school (Yuen Biao) and Er-Kui (Geng Han) his adoptive brother who they rescued from execution. After recently being awarded a golden plaque by the regent, the master of the Shanghai Opera House challenges them to a duel, because his school was too far away to compete in the events. In a duel between masters, the loser must break his spear, and never perform again. Yuen loses (due to interference of course) and so his Opera House is shut down. Years later the brothers are grown and their master has nothing left to teach them, so they travel to the now world famous Shanghai Opera house to seek vengeance. Upon their victory they take over the Shanghai Opera House, however all of the performers hold a grudge against them (unsurprisingly) and Er-Kui wishes to take the opportunity to exact revenge on the regent who'd executed the rest of his clan so many years ago. All and all I would say I enjoyed watching this film, despite it's many imperfections. There were a couple points when I thought I'd hate it, but it did a really solid job of pulling itself out of a few of the pitfalls it could've easily tumbled into. It remains a rather entertaining film about theater and revenge, with solid performances and emo-haircuts throughout. Unfortunately it's rife with faults that maybe could've been fixed with a couple script re-writes or a more accomplished director. The romance relationship surrounding Barbie Hsu's character doesn't have any emotional strength behind it. Also the storylines that diverge following the two brothers in their separate paths seem incomplete and a little disjointed. The twists in the story are unsurprising... because the film does nothing to hide what they're going to be. It ends up feeling rather soap-operay. All this considered, I still have positive feelings about the film. It's by no means a classic, but it's enjoyable and easy to watch, and the uncomplicated unambitious plot allows you to pay more attention to some of the other details
By other details I mean the fight sequences and the Opera sequences. Both of these are handled extraordinately well. The fights are limited primarily to the beginning and end of the film, so don't expect a roller-coaster ride, but they *are* choreographed by Sammo Hung. The opening fight is between Yuen Biao and veteran villain Rongguang Yu and is an entertaining spear fight (with fire!) The younger cast take up the duties on the other fights, and despite the wiring and tight editing, they come off really well. I wish the fight in the wine cellar were longer, because I loved some of the ideas and imagery in it. The Chinese opera sequences are used to great effect, peppered throughout the film and performed about as well as anyone could hope for. I'm not usually a fan of this type of story telling, but they don't overuse it and so it adds a really great background for the film. Also, the make-up and costume design for this film are fantastic (and I'm astounded it was snubbed for an HKFA.)
My Kingdom is a straight-forward film, but remains entertaining due to its expert fight choreography and the attention paid to capturing the Chinese opera as beautifully as possible.
Upcoming requests include Lone Wolf and Cub Series, Beast Cops, Seven Swords, Battle of Wits, Breaking News, Tae Guk GI, and Assembly