Starring Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok, Xiong Xin-Xin, Lau Shun, John Wakefield, Chiu Chin, Ge Cuen-Zhuang, Meng Chin, Wong Tak-Yan, Zhang Chun-Zhong
Directed by Tsui Hark
Expectations: Low. I don’t remember liking this one much.
At long last I finally got around to watching this one! Hope no one was holding their breath for the last fifteen months! All kidding aside, I had a hankering for some Jet Li after reading a few blogs about his work over at Dangerous Meredith’s blog and a review of OAUTIC IV at Varied Celluloid. The film definitely exceeded my expectations in many ways, while also reminding me why I had not embraced this one in my youth. I’ve probably only seen this one a couple of times, the last time being around ten years ago. The only thing I remembered about it was that there was a lot of lion dancing, and boy is there a lot of lion dancing!
Once Upon a Time in China III (OUATIC3) opens with the Chinese Empress declaring that there will be a lion dance competition to prove the power of Chinese martial arts to the ever encroaching foreigners. We then connect with Wong Fei-Hung (Jet Li), 13th Aunt (Rosamund Kwan) and Wong’s disciple Foon (Max Mok) arriving in Peking to visit Wong’s father, Won Kei-Ying. The lion dance competition is sending every martial club into a frenzy trying their best to outdo the others. One group in particular, the oil factory team, is run by an evil man who will stop at nothing to get to the top, including bullying and physically taking people out of the competition. This leads to the main struggle of the film between Wong and Chiu, the leader of the oil factory team.