Once Upon a Time in China and America
AKA: Once Upon a Time in China 6, Wong Fei-Hung in America
Director: Sammo Hung
Stars: Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Hung Yan-Yan, Jeff Wolfe
In this chapter of the popular series, Wong Fei-Hung (Li) travels to America with his fiancée Aunt Yee (Kwan) and sidekick Seven (Hung Yan-Yan) to visit the US branch of Po Chi Lam (Wong's clinic). While on their way there, the group rescues a mysterious drifter called Billy (Wolfe) and are then attacked by a group of Indians. Fei-Hung loses his memory during the fight and ends up living with the Indians, while Aunt Yee and Seven head to town, where they find it's run by a corrupt mayor who runs a campaign of terror against the Chinese laborers living there.
You might think that a Sammo Hung movie featuring Jet Li would be great. But this one certainly isn't. For starters, the story just doesn't make any sense. Why would Fei-Hong travel for seven months just to visit someone? The whole film is based on the "East meets West" gimmick, but it fails to utilize it in any form except for lame jokes. The "head blow that results in amnesia" plot device is overused and stupid, and the Indian subplot seems to be just tacked on, because it's dumped very quickly. Most of the gweilo and Native American actors are just horrible. Some of them sound more like surfers than cowboys and Indians. The script is very poorly written; for instance, it's never explained why Clubfoot is now called Seven. And finally, the film just looks poor. Once Upon a Time in China and America suffered from the typical HK miniscule budget, combined with an incompetent and un-cooperative American crew. As such, there are many shots in the film that could have been great, but look almost amateurish (the lighting, in particular, looks very bad).
Despite all of this, there is still some good stuff in Once Upon a Time in China and America. Most of the action sequences and fights are well-choreographed and played out. They use a bit less wire-fu than the previous films, but there's still plenty of flying about. One particularly good sequence has Seven trying to jar Fei-Hung's memory by portraying the villains for the previous OUATIC films. Jeff Wolfe does a good job as Billy. Unlike the other white actors in the film, he actually manages to take his character out of the realm of caricature. And it was nice seeing Jet Li returning to the role of Wong Fei-Hung.
If you're a big fan of the series, then you'll probably want to check out Once Upon a Time in China and America -- otherwise, just stick with the first three films of the series instead.
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