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Wing Chun (1994)

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-Michelle Yeoh
-Donnie Yen


Michelle Yeoh plays Yim Wing Chun, a famous martial artist for which the fighting style was named. Wing Chun's sister and father leave on a trip for the sister's wedding. This leaves Michelle Yeoh, and her aunt, who seems to have a big mouth and harsh attitude towards men, in charge of the Soy Bean store. They soon come by a widow, Charmy, who is left homeless after her husband has died and has been pursued by bandits. They take her in and she gets to be "Miss Soy Bean", with her beauty helping to attract business. This was the position that Wing Chun held before she went of to learn martial arts. When an old childhood friend comes back after ten years, he mistakes Charmy for Wing Chun and falls for her, believing her to be Wing Chun. Meanwhile, the bandits continue to try capture Charmy.


Wing Chun, another traditional martial arts wire-fu film from Yuen Woo Ping, follows much in the tradition of other Yuen Woo Ping films from the 90's. The wire-fu is just like that of Tai Chi Master and Iron Monkey. And, much like these other two films, it has a certain mix of themes and goofy comedy. A starring showcase for Michelle Yeoh, I certainly hoped for one of the best martial arts films I'd seen. Unfortunately, despite her solid performance, the film's flimsy plot and sometimes overbearing comedy drag it down. On the other hand, some good fighting, themes, and a bit of decent comedy keep Wing Chun an enjoyable film.

As previously mentioned, the plot in Wing Chun is stupid and flimsy. At no point does the main plot really draw the viewer in. In fact, at certain points I found I had completely forgotten about the main plot regarding the bandits and was solely focused on the subplots. It would seem to me that this is truly a case where the film has a main plot just to push the rest of the film along. Too bad I actually felt I was being pulled away from the interesting stuff when they would drop back to a major part of the main plot.

The themes in Wing Chun, though, are presented very well and land a big plus for the film. It carries with it a very empowering message about the role of women. The movie has three women that have had different experiences with men and carry different views about men and relationships. Charmy has been married and understands what it is like to have a husband she cares about and all the joys of love. Wing Chun's aunt has a very cynical view toward men, with a big mouth to go along with it. Wing Chun struggles with her femininity while taking on a role that was not like that of most women at the time. When her childhood friend mistakes Charmy for her and starts to fall in love is when this really shows. This theme and the plot of how the women deal with these feelings make this quite a bit more interesting than standard martial arts fare.

The comedy in the film sometimes compliments the story and action very well, and at other times becomes very overbearing and too goofy. It is quite funny to see Wing Chun and her aunt interact, especially with the aunt's big mouth regarding men and Wing Chun having to try keep her from saying too much. Some of the action comedy is also quite good, such as scaring an enemy with the blunt side of a sword. The problem is that sometimes the comedy is a little too goofy and overbearing for this film, especially as they are trying to present such heavy themes as they are. Not that the movie takes itself too seriously to allow jokes, as it does have quite a light-hearted feel to it. It is just that sometimes, a joke just got a little too goofy to justify the chuckle it gets and sometimes it seems they did one joke too many. This is probably the biggest problem this film has and what brings it down quite a bit. Its some good comedy, it just needed to have the reigns pulled in on it a bit.

Michelle Yeoh kicks some ass as usual in this film, too. There is plenty of fighting, and as always, Yuen Woo Ping's choreography is great. That combined with Michelle Yeoh's physical prowess give these fights a lot of energy. The most interesting fight is probably where Michelle Yeoh faces a challenger and he wins if he can smash a soy bean cube on the table. She gets to do all kinds of crazy stuff to stop him from smashing it. Wirework is evident in the film, but doesn't show throw as heavily as in some other films - which is neither good nor bad, unless you don't like wire-fu. Wirework shows throw more on the objects the characters kick and toss around than on the fighters themselves.

Wing Chun ends up being an enjoyable, but flawed film. If the comedy had been better controlled and the movie had a better story than the whole bandit thing, it could have been much closer to "classic" status. The themes in the film work well, the action is awesome, and some of the comedy is great (particularly that from Wing Chun's aunt's big mouth). As it is, this is definitely worth a viewing for martial arts fans and is a decent starring role showcase for Michelle Yeoh. It is a good film, which is all the more reason that I just can't help but think how much better the film could have been.


-Yuen Woo Ping


-Original Cantonese language.