Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.
The cover art for this Taiwanese feature gives the impression that it is a period fantasy but Cai Yang-ming's CHIVALROUS LEGEND (which bypassed HK theatres and premiered on video) actually concerns the China - Japan war fought at the end of the 19th century. As part of the treaty signed by The Chin Dynasty in 1894, the Japanese were given control of Taiwan and treated that country's people with the sort of neglect and contempt that almost guaranteed an eventual uprising. After his mother is murdered by invading soldiers, young kung fu whiz Liao Ten-din (Hsi Hsiao-long / Sik Siu-lung) takes refuge with an opera troupe (run by Blackie Ko Shou-liang). Caught performing an anti-Japanese play, the company is attacked and Liao barely escapes. The film picks up in 1903, with Liao (now played by Jimmy Lin Chi-ying) becoming the Robin Hood of his age, stealing from the invaders and giving their cash to his poverty-stricken countrymen. Along the way, Liao falls in love with both the righteous Yih and prostitute Liu (Vivian Hsu Ruo-hsuan), the latter a childhood friend he unsuccessfully tried to save from slave traders years earlier.
Vivian Hsu (left) and Jimmy Lin (right). Image courtesy Universe.
You know you are on shaky cinematic ground when the opening shot of a
movie features one of the worst CGI effects in history (that break-up
at the bottom of the screen isn't your disc, folks) but this modest effort
is more competently staged thereafter. Unfortunately, it never deviates
from formula and suffers from Jimmy Lin's inability to project authority
and strength in a convincing manner. As with his earlier performance in
BUTTERFLY & SWORD, Lin is also completely unconvincing as a kung fu
master (you hardly ever get to see his character's face whenever a fight
starts up). Ironically, the production's only real novelty is its reliance
on wire-enhanced action, not something commonly seen in Taiwanese war