“MY KINGDOM” 大武生 CHINESE MOVIE REVIEW. The INTRIGUE of BROTHERHOOD.
“MY KINGDOM” 大武生 PRESS PREVIEW
To begin with, this Reviewer has appraised some of the worst movies you can ever imagine this season.
Thankfully “MY KINGDOM” does not disappoint.
It’s a welcome respite, just like a lark bursting into song on a lonesome evening.
Leading actor WU CHUN is handsome. His sidekick HAN GENG is dashing. BARBIE HSU is alluring. Jolly good start.
Beautiful stars do not a film maketh, but it surely helps to establish the box office.
With two pretty boys and one sweet damsel, the idol-drama formula is always safe and riverting, targeting primarily at the young and dating crowd.
Daddies, mummies and aunties who prefer Donnie Yen and Jet Li become a secondary audience.
Now, we just have to throw in the action.
“MY KINGDOM” directed by Gao XiaoSong is proudly positioned as a period martial arts drama set against a Peking Opera and Kung Fu backdrop. Fine pacing, colorful sets and amiable eye candies. These are the initial ingredients to spur us on.
The film opens on the final days of the 19th century. The merciless Prince Regent of the Qing Dynasty wickedly orders the beheading of the entire Meng clan – men, women and children in public.
Whilst awaiting the execution, a five-year-old Meng boy bursts into song. His name is Er Kui and he renders a beautiful aria dispelling the gloom in the desolate execution ground.
Deeply moved, opera star Master Yu Shengying (Yuan Biao) and his seven-year-old pupil Guan Yi-long rescue the boy from the gallows.
We are given the clue that there’s a lone survivor of the Meng clan here who will seek revenge in the years to come.
Yes, time rolls and soon the two orphans grew up to become as close as brothers. It will be your guess if you can detect if there’s any trace of a homoerotic bonding. Otherwise you can relegate this to the fact that all men are brothers.
Master Yu wins a coveted golden plaque from the Prince Regent but is challenged to a duel by a Shanghai arch-rival, Master Yue Jiangtian (Yu Rongguang).
Yu fights, loses and is forced to retire in disgrace.
He spends his days training the two boys as “wu sheng,” male warriors in the Peking opera which combines colourful, elaborate costumes, acrobatics, mime and singing.
As strapping young men, Yi-long (Wu Chun) and Er-kui (Han Geng) finally travels to Shanghai to avenge Master Yu’s humiliation by challenging Master Yue to a spear fight on stage, a confrontation that involves the entire troupe. They won.
Yi-long turns into a vain, self-centered and arrogant opera star and Er-kui becomes an assassin killing all the Prince Regent’s sons as retribution for the execution of his family.
Now, a touch of romance to complete the story.
The love interest comes in the form of Xi Mulan (Barbie Hsu), Master Yue’s former lover and a famous opera actress who attracts the attention of both brothers. And what of her?
The Peking opera industry has a rule: male and female singers cannot fall in love, especially if they’re a shifu and disciple.
We have a tale of two sworn brothers and their quest to regain their master’s honor. This relentless quest leads them to further fame and love. Yet everything gained is everything lost as in eventuality the thirst of vengeance and the game of deceit see them spiraling down in their own woeful game.
“MY KINGDOM” takes on a different kind of action choreography.
Instead of traditional kung fu moves, the audience will be treated to kung fu-trained Peking opera singers honing their skills on and off the stage.
Sammo Hung the action director has created a new style of “graceful kung fu,” by combining traditional martial arts routines with Peking opera singers’ theatrical kung fu movements.
For those who are young and the uninhibited, here’s an unusual period drama set against the intriguing backdrop of the Peking Opera and Kung Fu.