Set in the era when China was just beginning to establish relations with Europe, Once upon a Time in China 3 is a mixture of politics, intrigue, broad comedy, and kung fu action. Charismatic Jet Li stars once again as W... more »ong Fei-hung, a legendary Chinese hero who is a doctor, a pacifist, and an amazingly skilled martial artist. Like many Hong Kong films, this movie has a woefully complicated plot: in summary, a kung fu competition not only sparks a bitter rivalry between different martial arts associations, it also becomes the linchpin in an assassination plot. But this leaves out Wong Fei-hung's increasingly romantic relationship with his aunt (played by Rosamund Kwan), the rehabilitation of one of the villain's henchmen, and the introduction of a steam engine to a Chinese factory, among other subplots! Once upon a Time in China 3 is not the strongest in the series--the subtitling is unusually clumsy, the editing is rough, the plot is confusing, and the melodrama is more crudely played than in the other films--but there's still a clear, raw authority to the storytelling that is a hallmark of director-producer Hark Tsui (Peking Opera Blues, Green Snake). Though it seems to have been made in a rush, Once upon a Time in China 3 will still reward devotees of Hong Kong films, and the frequent and wild fight scenes will appeal to action fans. --Bret Fetzer« less
"In the third film in this series, martial arts film legend Jet Li stars as Dr. Wong Fei-Hung, a real life folk hero of 19th century China. Combining solid martial arts action (as you'd expect from a Jet Li movie) with decent storyline which delves into some historical elements, this movie is a decent flick all-around. While not quite as captivating in terms of action or story as the previous films, III still delivers an acceptable performance.THE STORY:It is 19th century China and Western influence is growing. The Empress Dowager, in an attempt to showcase Chinese power to the foreigners, hosts a martial arts tournament, the Lion King competition, pitting the finest martial arts schools against one another. Wong's family's cultural society becomes caught in the middle of the martial arts wars.In the midst of staving off the attacks of their rivals, Wong is also caught in a personal dilemma as he and his secret-lover, his cousin (through marriage) Yee, decide to marry and try to find ways to announce it to their family. Added to this is the arrival of a Russian friend from Yee's past who is infatuated with her himself, showering her with great Western gifts such as the motion-picture camera.Throughout all of this turmoil, things become a bit more interesting as foreign interests decide to use the tournament as a backdrop to a political assassination plot...THE COOL STUFF:If you love martial arts action you've got a good portion of it here. The fight scenes are NUMEROUS as you'll be treated to tons of fighting set in 19th century China in tons of marketplace settings as well as vintage Chinese dwellings and buildings. The sets and costumes are just awesome, particularly all of the Lion dresses. The fight scenes between Wong and the rival martial artists are just awesome. In addition this film does incorporate some humorous moments into it.THE DVD FEATURES:The features of the DVD, while not extensive as most new DVDs are, are perfectly acceptable. Included on this DVD are the following:1. Bonus Movie Trailers for the following: a. Once Upon a Time in China IIb. Once Upon a Time in China Trilogyc. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragond. Miracles by Jackie Chan2. Filmographies for Director Tsui Hark, Jet Li and Rosamund Kwan.THE VERDICT:The most common criticism for most martial arts/action flicks are that the stories [stink]. The redeeming quality for them is, of course, the action. Like its predecessor, Once Upon a Time in China III overcomes these criticisms by delivering solid action and (lo and behold) a decent story. In addition, the film, besides having an awesome story and action sequences also incorporates just the right amount of humor to make it a nice package all around. While not quite as captivating in terms of action or story as its two predecessors, Once Upon a Time in China III still delivers an acceptable performance.Overall, besides oohing and aahing to cool fight scenes you'll also be treated to a great look at a crucial period in Chinese history.Recommended"
Extremely good, almost measured up to the previous two
Mr. JKW | 11/18/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was a excellent movie staring the ever amazing Jet Li, although the final scene could have had more of a one on one fightng theme the overall quality of the movie, as in sounds and picture quality have been drastically improved from the previous two. The induction of Club Foot and an ancient Triad group are also cool. Jet Li is as great as ever. If you enjoyed his other movies, you will love this one as it ranks among his top performances"
Not as it seems
streen2000 | Singapore | 10/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I know that there have been a lot of reviews deploring the relatively lower standards of fight choreography, plot, etc. of this third installment. Yet of the 4, this was the movie that left the deepest impression on this humble reviewer - I remember being moved to tears after watching this as 12 year-old. I do understand, though, why other reviewers might have panned this one - it's much easier to understand tsui hark's intentions from the perspective of someone brought up in a more... "chinese" environment, so to speak.
The theme song of the series (the one with the drums and chinese-trumpets and people chanting "ahhhh... ahhhhhaahhhahhaahhahhh..." - yes, don't you know it) is about a man who wants to become a hero and win glory and honour - he calls others to join him in his quest, and sings of a fire burning in him that is "brighter than the sun" - an example of the sort of nationalistic, patriotic tradition that is very much ingrained into mainland-chinese culture (how much of it is part of a communist government's propaganda-package is anyone's guess). The character of Huang Fei-Hung is the embodiment of all the values inherent in The Patriot: a man unafraid of standing up to oppressive powers (foreign or otherwise) and fighting for the masses. This theme is emphasized throughout the series, and never so well-depicted as in Part III. ***Spoiler*** This episode ultimately ends tragically, as Wong realises that in fighting to "save face" and win honour for his people, he has in reality failed them. As such, the film (in a somewhat didactic approach - it is Tsui Hark, after all) deviates from the stereotypical kung-fu-hero-kills-all-the-baddies-and-saves-the-day ending in an attempt to teach its audience just what it really means to fight for your country - that it isn't just scrabbling for some abstract, pedantic bragging rights, but to be prepared to make sacrifices to bring about change that is real and good.
For those who just want to watch some chop-socking action, catch the first film. But if you're looking for some insight into the source of Chinese nationalistic fervour, and what drives a man to put everything at stake for family and country, this really is one of the essentials."
Poor editing and voice overs don't kill this movie entirely
Daniel A Moir | Salt Lake City, UT | 06/01/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Wong Fei Hung is an important figure, not only to Chinese history, but also to me as a student of the style, which he helped make famous. The Hung Gar Style is traced back to Hung Tsi Kwan (there are lots of debates over the spelling of his name) who taught Luk Ah Choy, and Wong Tai (Wong Fei Hung's grand father) who taught Wong Kei Ying (Fei Hung's father) who refused to teach Fei Hung, forcing him to turn to Luk Ah Choy for lessons. Fei Hung then went on to teach Lam Sai Wing who wrote the book that more or less made the style famous. Hung Gar is a very common style in Southern China, but is very rare stateside with only a small number of schools teaching it. Wong Fei Hung is therefore a matter of great interest to me, which is why I bought this film without actually seeing it first. Sadly I was disappointed.
The voice-overs for the English dub of OUATIC 1 and 2 were decent, and I liked the voice actor behind Jet Li in the first two films. Sadly he was replaced with a less appropriate voice actor. I didn't really notice if any of the other mainstays of the series had different voices, but Fei Hung's voice was very different and not as good as the previous installments. Granted bad voice-overs are to be expected with Kung Fu movies, but why fix what isn't broken?
The editing in this movie also leaves a lot to be desired as it is the worst editing I have seen in a modern Kung Fu movie, period. Story line wise the movie is very good with a story that sets the stage for the Boxer Rebellion, which shook the very foundations of the Qing (or Ching depending of your spelling preference) Dynasty. In that time frame the Empress decided to use the anti-foreign attitudes of China to what was supposed to be her advantage. The idea was inspire the Martial Artists to revolt against them; she never anticipated that the Martial Artists (many of them Ming Dynasty patriots) would not only violently revolt against the foreigners, but also the Ching themselves. This movie is kind of a precursor to that bloody massacre, with the empress trying to inspire the revolt by hosting a Lion Head (King) competition. Parts of this story are indeed based on actual history, which make this story perhaps the most intriguing of the trilogy. However, now Wong Fei Hung and Cousin Yee are discussing marriage, and while Wong Fei Hung was married three times it was never to his cousin-by-marriage. The bizarre and arguably incestuous relationship gets even more interesting when Lilly Lee meets up with an old flame that has now turned into a Russian-Japanese double agent who is plotting to kill China's President Li. Also in this film is a poorly portrayed Wong Kei Ying, who was in his prime one of the Ten Tigers of Canton (China's greatest fighters at the time). Here the one fight scene he has he looses... and I am sorry, but seeing such a legendary fighter get beaten was kind of an eye roller. I'm as much of a fan of Wong Kei Ying as I am of Wong Fei Hung... I wasn't happy with how the elder Wong was portrayed. On the plus side while the action sequences failed to meet expectations set by the first two the Lion Head sequences are simply breathtaking. I have always loved Lion head dances and hope that one day my SiFu will allow me to participate in one myself. This movie did a fantastic job or portraying the multiple sides of the Lion Head tradition. On the one side, its fascinating to watch, amazing to participate on, and can be a lot of fun over all. On the dark side, they were used to pass messages around during various revolts, and in many cases Lion Heads were used as vehicles of assault, or assassination. This move does a superb job of focusing on both aspects.
Although the movie is still good I only recommend it over all for fans, or completists as this is sadly not the OUATIC series' finer moment, and the casual movie goer may not get into it as much."
Really good, worth watching
Daniel A Moir | 09/11/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On its own, this is a really good movie. If you compare it to Jet Li's best however, subtract one star. But is that really fair? All I know is that I enjoyed this movie from the lion dances, the introduction of Clubfoot, the fight on the oil-stained floor, and the cool opening credit sequence-featuring the Wong Fei-Hung theme. Technically, it is good as well. Nice performances, direction, camera angles, choreography, set design, two-way storyline, and just enough humor. I would've preferred more actual one-on-one kung fu in the finale, but the ending was still entertaining. Add this to your collection."