Film: Wushu - The Young Generation **
Release Date: 18th April 2011
Director: Antony Szeto
Starring: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Fengchao Liu, Wenjie Wang
Genre: Martial Arts
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Jackie Chan is on board as executive producer of Wushu - The Young Generation, which is hardly surprising when you consider that it’s young stars are genuine martial artists plucked from obscurity and thrown onto the big screen in the hope of discovering the next big thing.
Antony Szeto takes on directorial duties, telling the tale of newbie martial arts students facing a variety of challenges as they prepare to graduate. Leading the pack are Wang Wen Jie and Liu Feng Chao, and martial arts legend Sammo Hung provides hefty support as both wushu instructor and father of two of the boys.
We first meet Li Yi (Wang Wen Jie) and Li Er (Wang Ya Chao) at a very young age, starting their journey through school and into manhood. Li Yi is tipped to win a hotly contested wushu competition, but he insists on performing his late mother's signature move, which is so difficult that it could cost him the gold medal.
His friends have their own trials to face, but they too must do whatever it takes to overcome the hurdles and tackle their challenges head on. Just as things become a little too pedestrian, former wushu prodigy He Le (Tie Nan) attempts to kidnap some of the wushu students - where would we be without a little Hollywood formula? Along with Li Yi and student Yang Yaowu (Liu Feng Chao), Li Hui sets out to track down the villains and bring He Le to justice.
There are a number of problems with Wushu - The Young Generation, most notably when it comes to low production values and loose direction. The miniscule budget (I’m assuming the budget was low) gives Wushu a made-for-TV vibe, which is distracting enough in itself, but director Antony Szeto drops the ball big time when it comes to making the most of his stars.
Wushu comes complete with both martial arts legend Sammo Hung and a wealth of young talent that know how to handle themselves on the battlefield. Antony Szeto not only gets too close to the action, but his trigger-happy editing style provides a movie going experience that feels like its hiding something. Which is just plain crazy because these guys know what they’re doing, and had Szeto pulled back and allowed his actors to perform, Wushu would have made for engaging spectacle - the only thing he seems to be hiding is any genuine ability behind the camera.
The first hour of the movie is an endless parade of exhibitionist action and predictable coming of age drama, its incredibly lightweight but not without a certain sense of charm. The young stars acquit themselves rather well, lacking in depth but making up for acting experience with a likeable screen presence that encourages effortless hokum.
Story wise, Wushu lurches from one set piece to the next, without any indication of proper direction. It’s a bit of mess if the truth be told, and things get worse when He Le shows up with his sinister plot and a horde of evil henchman. The formulaic plotting seems out of place with the rest of the movie, and serves only to bolster a brief running time whilst highlighting a weak director without purpose. We do at least get to see the big man dance, but with Antony Szeto at the helm, you’ll be forgiven for feeling a little short-changed.
The lack of original storytelling would have been acceptable had The Young Generation blessed us with authentic action and high-flying stunts aplenty - it doesn’t. Antony Szeto fails to make the most of his young stars and drowns them in a wealth of poor execution, cliché-ridden drama and uninspiring action.