The Legend of Wisely

During the 1980’s HK films seemed to have a fascination for the Indiana Jones type of adventure film and tried to emulate it in a number of films such as Jackie Chan’s Condor films to Michelle Yeoh in Magnificent Warriors and this film as well. There were sometimes other sources that these films were based on, but the Indiana Jones influence is very obvious.

One would think that this kind of action/adventure film would be perfect for HK. The action genre was the bread and butter of HK films – but oddly enough none of these efforts ever really match up to the Indiana Jones films. Part of this may be simply that HK films didn’t have the necessary budget (though all these films mentioned had much higher budgets than the normal HK film) to actualize these big screen epic feeling stories. But I actually think that the reason these big adventure films never quite come off is that they lose the personalization that make HK films so special. The wonderful skills and charisma of these action actors – Jackie, Michelle and Sam Hui – seem to be dissipated on the vast canvass – their sense of humanity gets swallowed up by the budgets and grand scale of the film. So though these films are fun to watch  - they never really feel like essential films to watch.

The character of Wisely has shown up in a few HK films – this one, Seventh Curse, Bury Me High and The Cat. According to some information provided by Sebastian Tse on the Mobius Board, Wisely is a character created by writer Ngai Hong in a series of books (over 100) that began back in the 1970’s but didn’t become popular until the 80’s. They are sort of sci-fi/fantasy novels detailing the adventures of Wisely and the film adaptations tend to be very loose interpretations of the character. In this film, he is easily put into an Indiana Jones mode – but there are some sci-fi aspects to this film that seem more Wisely than Indiana Jones.

The wonderful Sam Hui never looks quite comfortable as Wisely and rarely gets to utilize his charm and sly humor – but in the many action scenes he is quite good. His friend – Teddy Robins - manipulates Wisely into helping him steal the Dragon Pearl from a secluded Buddhist temple but when Hui realizes what he has done he tries to get it back for them. The Pearl is extremely sacred to the temple and it has some strange magical powers about it. But Robins has stolen the Dragon Pearl for Ti Lung – a wealthy magnate in HK.

Hui receives the aid of Ti Lung’s kung-fu fighting sister, Joey Wong, and is able to get the Pearl back – but it is soon stolen from him by Howard Hope. Howard is one of the wealthiest and most reclusive men in the world  - clearly a reference to Howard Hughes – and he needs the Pearl for very mysterious reasons. Hui, Joey and Ti Lung all decide to team up and get the Pearl back for the temple. Even stranger things await them.

The film is pure adventure – rarely is a moment taken for anything else outside of a bit of flirtation between Sam and Joey. There are a number of excellent chases, solid fights and terrific locales. The story stretches from HK to Egypt to Katmandu and clearly the budget was not lacking. Some of the sets are dazzling – and the ending special effects are very cool. It's a difficult film though to take to heart - as at times it seems to be trying almost too hard to get too much on the screen.

I watched this on VCD which was a shame because I think there is a DVD version out there (saw the trailer on some other DVD). This is definitely a film that should be seen on a clean lovely transfer, but the VCD has a large amount of pixilation and fracturing and the subs were quite small.
Though this Cinema City film is far less known than others of its kind, it is a fair amount of easy going fun with some good action scenes and very nice visuals.

My rating for this film: 7.0