Director: Frankie Chan
Starring: Cecilia Cheung, Richie Jen, Na Yu, Cheng Pei-pei, Yukari Oshima, Liu Xiaoqing, Yu Xiao Ming
Based on the Yang Family Saga, the plot behind Legendary Amazons is probably most well-known via the Shaw Bros. classic, 14 Amazons, starring a who’s who of Shaw Studios female staples. Basically, the Yang family is well known throughout the land for their courage and history of service to protect the country against invaders. In doing so, the clan has sacrificed many husbands, fathers, and sons so that the security of the land is assured. When a new threat wipes out the remaining male soldiers, the clan of widows, all skilled in their own ways, dons armor and march with the last surviving male heir to take up arms and defend the country against murderous barbarians.
The story featuring a very large cast, suffers from a lack of focus. With so many characters, the Amazons instead take on the identity of their weapons and there is no real connection to any of the characters minus Cecilia Cheung. Even then, Cecilia seems content to look shocked and have overly dramatic showings of emotion throughout, even shedding her famous tears multiple times. Richie Ren fares a bit better, but he’s hardly amazing. The surprise here was definitely in the physical performances of Zhou Xiaofei as Paifeng who does some pretty impressive staff work and the villain (insert) both have some good exchanges and choreography. There isn’t much exemplary with the final battle sequence featuring some laughably bad techniques to take down the vastly overwhelming force against them. It’s typical of many other films before this, but seriously, pogo stilts?
The film boasts some great sets, particularly the famous banquet scene, and some ornate and distinguished weapon designs. Overall, the film’s physical production design is top notch it clearly adds a colorful flair to the proceedings. Like in many mainland produced films however, the VFX is atrocious, I mean really terrible. In this day and age of film tech, how these Chinese effects pass mustard is beyond me. It really takes you out of the film when it shows up and it would have been better to just build grand sets like Chinese crews are known for. The music is average with the main theme not so thinly disguised as nationalistic ‘patriotic’ song. It isn’t terrible, just not really memorable either.
An uneven film, Legendary Amazons basically tells a dumbed down version of the story. With some head-shakingly bad use of comedy to inject levity in to the film, the film provides some moments of cheese. Boasting some pretty good weapon fights, among real martial artists anyway, the film is not terrible, it just has a wide gap between its strengths and weakness. When it’s good, ie. the action scenes, it is pretty entertaining, but when it’s bad, ie. the melodrama, it gets BAD. Overall, the film is probably not worth the time for most serious film viewers, but it has some great fights and a bevy beautiful ladies kicking butt on screen, so it isn’t without its positives. In the end, stay for the action, but you can probably skip the drama.
You may enjoy the film if you liked: Hua Mulan, The Empress and her Warriors, and The White Dragon