Legend of the Wolf: ”In fact, truth or fake, win or lose, there is no difference either, you gain or not.”

Year: 1997
Directed by Donnie Yen
Produced by Donnie Yen
Written by Donnie Yen, Bill Lui and Cub Chin Kong-Hon
Cast: Donnie Yen, Carman Lee, Dayo Wong, Ben Lam, Edmond Leung, Bonnie Lai Suk-Yin, Mak Wai-Cheung, Tony Tam Chun-To, Kenji Tanigaki, Mandy Chan, Chiu Wing-Hoi, and Cub Chin Kong-Hon

Through a series of flashbacks, the story of a legendary amnesiac warrior is told as he returns to his village after spending years fighting in a war.

To clear things up, no Donnie Yen does not turn into a werewolf in this movie although that would be absolutely awesome. Donnie Yen’s directorial debut is an undeniable mess because it lacks a clear sense of direction. Legend of the Wolf may have an artistic intention through its unconventional storytelling and at least an attempt at unconventional camerawork but this artistic intention mostly falters. The script is too weak to handle such ambition. So, Legend of the Wolf ends up feeling way more pretentious than it needs to be. The modern day segments are an odd segway that are supposed to take us to the meat of the plot. The presence of these segments is only justified on the merits of a theme of the old clashing with the new. A sort of a ham-fisted theme is spelled out a bit too many times. How effective that theme is in the grand scheme of things is largely a matter of taste. Nonetheless, either way, they don’t feel utterly necessary.

Setting aside the unnecessarily convoluted setup, Legend of the Wolf is the typical plot of an outsider defending a ravaged town from violent invaders. Man-Hin’s personal trauma doesn’t get fleshed out in any proper way for some reason. But, Donnie Yen’s acting suffices somewhat to convince us of his pain. While Donnie Yen is far from a bad actor, I would say he’s the type of actor that requires good direction to get a really great performance out of him. Man-Hin’s relationship with Wai who is more or less his sidekick is a touching display of comradery considering the amount of effort that Wai puts into his hero worship of Man-Hin. And, Man-Hin’s romance with Wai-Yee while is rushed is serviceable enough due to Carmen Lee’s solid acting. Legend of the Wolf almost unfolds in episodic bits because of the constant flashbacks which doesn’t leave much room for a tight story. However, the serious display of emotions packed in such a desperate environment can be intense and uncomfortably sentimental. The finale is thrilling as it stirs up a great fight scene accompanied by intense emotions.

On a technical front, the fights are mostly great, but for a few of the fights lack good editing . It doesn’t cut at the right place, so occasionally you don’t get a proper view of certain moments. The color can be so orange-reddish which makes it seem like parts were actually filmed on the surface of Mars or something.

Donnie Yen’s attempt to be bold in his directorial debut gets the best of him. Legend of the Wolf is fundamentally flawed and too sloppy which doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed. Unlike the boatload of other mediocre films, Legend of the Wolf dares to be more than the sum of its parts.

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