Well Go USA presents action star Dennis To as The Grandmaster of Kung Fu, the latest take on the life of the legendary martial arts master Huo Yuanjia! Available to own from 31st January 2023 and streaming NOW on Hi-Yah TV.
Former World Wushu Champion and Asia Games medallist Dennis To Yue-Hong stars as the legendary Chinese national hero “Huo Yuanjia”. To had played minor roles in Donnie Yen’s “Ip Man 1 & 2” and “Bodyguards & Assassins”, before his first breakout role as a younger version of the famous Wing Chun master in “The Legend is Born: Ip Man”. He reprised the role of Ip Man in “Kung Fu League” and “Ip Man: Kung Fu Master”.
Dennis To & Angie Tsang Sze-Man (Iron Monkey) Hong Kong Wushu Team 1999
Chinese-Mongolian film and TV actor Naomen Eerdeni stars as the ruthless Japanese general “Takeda”. He has appeared in the “Snake” trilogy of adventure films and “Detective Dee and the Road to Hell”.
Liu Aiguo plays “Master Sun”. He has appeared as “Wang Bao” in “The New Fong Sai Yuk: Duel in the City of Death”. Veteran supporting actor Chu Pangching plays “Yu Chenhang”. He has had roles in “Champions”, and historical dramas such as “14 Blades”, “Dragon Sword”, “Blood of the Crown” and “The White Haired Witch”.
At the end of Qing Dynasty, Japan, which is trying to seize Tianjin, opens the Honghua Military Academy and suppresses the local Martial Arts Association.
Martial arts expert Huo Yuanjia, engages in a life-threatening battle with a Japanese military commander in order to prevent their takeover.
The movie opens with an old school masters challenge, pitting exponents of different styles or weapons skills against each other, to see who will be the new president of the Tianjin martial arts association.
Although each master declares a certain traditional style or strikes a pose such as the famous praying mantis, the choreography is actually made up of fairly familiar wire fu.
Enter a simple porter named Huo Yuanjia and the action ante is upped. Although there is still no distinct kung fu style as such (it’s meant to be Mízōngquán), there is a nice mix of recognisable longfist strikes, wushu style kicks, and qinna/chin na (seizing and trapping) techniques.
It’s slickly shot featuring rapid and fluid choreography. The lighting gives the scene an almost sepia look, adding to the vintage, historical mood of the story.
The inevitable arrival of a ruthless and deadly Japanese master raises the stakes of competitive challenge matches to a life or death fight, as the Japanese martial artists try to impose their superiority over the Chinese schools.
In the sword-fighting choreography it’s nice to see a few techniques from both the Japanese katana (single-edged sword) and Chinese dao (broadsword/sabre) being applied. Practitioners of either weapon should recognise many of them.
The story is the classic tale of the wicked Japanese occupiers/rival martial arts school, oppressing/beating the Chinese people/martial arts schools.
Along comes a skilled, heroic, Chinese fighter who must defeat the bullies against the odds, but show humility in any justice that is dished out.
It’s a successful formula that has proved popular in dozens of kung fu films such as Bruce Lee’s “Fist of Fury“, Jet Li’s “Fist of Legend” and “Fearless” (all based around the story of Huo Yuanjia), and the numerous “Ip Man” films.
Much like the other fictional works that have come before it, there is little-to-no historical accuracy, with the emphasis being firmly on the action.
Although this film has a running time of less than 75-minutes, it features half a dozen or more action scenes. There is nothing revolutionary here, but all of them are of decent quality. In fact, there is almost a nostalgic quality to them, invoking memories of the period kung fu films of the early and mid-1990s.
The music score features excerpts from Hans Zimmer’s “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows” soundtrack. This was a little unexpected, but an excellent score even in this context! Again, it’s almost nostalgic, as kung fu films in the 1970’s and 1980’s would often re-purpose music from Western films.
This plays almost like a companion piece to “Ip Man: Kung Fu Master”, which was released in the same year. Former wushu champion Dennis To seems to have carved out a niche in making uncomplicated, relatively short action films that (Tsui) hark back (see what I did there?) to the golden era of 1990’s kung fu films. Much like Jet Li before him, he is able to carry an air of nobility and humility, as well as delivering the physical action.
If you want an entertaining quick fix of kung fu fighting, “The Grandmaster of Kung Fu” might be just the ticket!
- When we first meet Huo Yuanjia in the film, he is a porter carrying a heavy load on his back. In real life, Huo Yuanjia was a porter at his friend Nong Jinsun’s pharmacy. Legend has it that he could carry 200kg of wood on his back!
- As in the movies, the real Huo Yuanjia became a popular hero in early 20th Century China, having fought and won many challenge matches in Tianjin and Shanghai.