Martial arts films are a dime a dozen in Southeast Asia, however, finding a really good one is pretty difficult these days. Either the film's action is overly dependent on goofy wire work, or the filmmakers let ridiculous things like plot get in the way of a good ass-whuppping. Thankfully, director Law Wing-cheong has learned from the mistakes of the past and puts his best foot forward in what is one of the most fun martial arts films I've seen in years with The Wrath of Vajra
Any real attempt to describe the plot is beside the point, the film's action is where the real meat is. There are some bad guys, a secret clan of trained assassins controlled by Japanese occupation forces in the 1930's, called the Temple of Hades, who have decided that the best way to subjugate the Chinese populace is not through brute military force, but intimidation. Standing against the Temple of Hades is a rag-tag crew of fighters led by a man known as the King of the Vajra, K-29 (Yu Xing in his first leading role). K-29 is tasked with fighting his way through the top fighters of the Temple of Hades in order to earn a battle with the Temple's leader, K-28, a former friend and fighting brother. It's your classic tournament fighting set up.
A dozen or so tightly choreographed fight sequences later and you-know-who ends up saving the day and all of China, of course without them even knowing that the battle for their eternal souls was going on. I'm almost tempted to throw a spoiler warning in there, but, come on, would we really expect any other outcome? This film, like any good film, isn't about the ending, it's about the journey, and Law manages to cram in a ton of fighting in this 110 minute kung fu-fest. Sure, some fights are better than others, and I think that the film spends far too long on a particular battle between a gargantuan Tetsumaku Rai (Jiang Baocheng), leader of the Violence Clan, and K-29, but that deficiency is more than made up for in the Crazy Monkey fight.
Crazy Monkey. Now THIS is a character. All that we know about Crazy Monkey is that he's the Vajra (leader) of the Zombie Clan and that he's like a crazy monkey. The role is performed to ridiculous perfection by "Poppin'" Hyun Joon, a Korean pop-and-lock specialist who just happens to look awesome using his insane dancing skills in conjunction with some mean fighting. A lot of this fight looks like wire work, which fits with the insane momentum the sequence builds, however, most of it was done in camera, no tricks, and it's incredibly impressive for it. If anyone steals the spotlight from the rather stoic Yu Xing, it's Poppin' Hyun Joon. Where's my Crazy Monkey movie?
If the film has any defects, they are, in my opinion, a result of the viewer looking for something that was never there in the first place. The film is a simplistic slug-fest, designed to get pulses racing, and deliver death-matches galore, and on that score it succeeds mightily. Yu Xing may not have the charisma of a Donnie Yen or a Jackie Chan, but I'll stand him next to someone like Collin Chou any day of the week. At 35 years of age, he's just ripe enough to evolve to the next level in China or Hong Kong. Law Wing-cheong has Donnie Yen's Iceman
and Iceman 2
on his plate already, so he's already made it out from under the shadow of his mentor, the great Johnnie To. This is a team that needs to make more movies like this one, because The Wrath Of Vajra
is fucking awesome.
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