Wu Dang Blu-ray Review
The Wu Dang Mountains are located in China, in the province of Hubei. The story goes that seven riches—including a powerful and magical sword made of meteoric stone—are kept inside of the mountain range. The greedy and determined Professor Tang (Vincent Zhao) wants it all, and so enlists his young daughter, Tang Ning (Josie Xu) in the Wu Dang Mountains Martial Arts Competition, held every 500 years on the grounds for junior Taoists to promote the style.
One of the other competitors is Tian Xing (Yang Mi), tasked to recover the sword, which once belonged to her clan. Recognizing her skill, Professor Tang insists the two team up to win the tournament and split the spoils.
Going on that, WU DANG promises a wealth of action and non-stop hand-to-hand combat. There is much of it, yes, but the movie also bothers to take the time to amuse the audience (and itself, really) with cheap character development, forced romance, petty bickering, one-note acting, and shaky special effects (thanks to the nonsense with the sword). This is all included in the movie to beefen it up and boost the runtime past the 100-minute mark. Screenwriter Chan Khan has good intentions, but Joe Schmoe at the video store—who may pick up WU DANG because he can’t find any of the boxes with Jet Li’s face on them—won’t care about any of what he’s supplied. He came for the tournament and he gets, in addition, all of the aforementioned filler. He might get restless with all of it, and it’s hard to blame him for wanting to use the chapter skip function on his remote to jump to the fight scenes.
Those are intended to be the real draw of WU DANG, directed by Patrick Leung (co-director of THE TWINS EFFECT II aka BLADE OF KINGS; he also served as assistant/second unit director on John Woo’s genre essentials THE KILLER and HARD BOILED). He and action director Corey Yuen (who has THE TRANSPORTER and a number of Jet Li movies, among others, to his credit) clearly put a lot of work into the theatrics of WU DANG—including the use of surrounding objects ranging from boxes and cargo nets to beams and barricades—but the problem is that none of it offers anything we haven’t seen before.
So much of what is supposed to impress us in WU DANG involves the gravity-defying flying and acrobatics right out of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. What Patrick Leung—and many modern martial arts filmmakers—don’t realize is that those illusions aren’t guaranteed to wow us anymore.
WU DANG is one of the latest in a long line of martial arts movies that were a hit nowhere and so hope to recoup its expenses on home video. One of its disadvantages there may be that the words “master,” “fist” or “dragon” don’t appear in the title. And really, how many moviegoers will recognize who or what “Wu Dang” is?
Video: 16:9 Widescreen in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. WU DANG has a limited color palette of largely earth tones, so there isn’t a whole lot to show off visually. That said, the high-definition video transfer does show off great detail in facial textures, clothing and, most notably, the locations.
Audio: Mandarin 5.1 Surround Sound HD. The audio transfer of WU DANG is at its best during the fight scenes, when it can show off the effects of every strike.
Behind the Scenes (31:12): This half-hour promotional piece uses clips, on-set footage and interviews (with director Corey Yuen, star Vincent Zhao and more) to give an overview on the plot and production of WU DANG.