In 2001, two films focused on the widely practiced (in China at any rate) martial arts known as Choy Lee Fut ; two films films which taken together say less about their subject that 10 minutes of Ip Man conveyed about Wing Chun. Of the two, John Ching’s Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu (which we reviewed recently) is the superior film, simply by dint of being funny on purpose. Tommy Law and Sam Wong’s Choy Lee Fut on the other hand, doesn’t seem to realize it’s laughable. Its unbelievably standard storyline concerns a young man (Sammy ‘son of Sammo’ Hung) who moves from London to China with his friend (Kane ‘son of Sho’ Kosugi) in order to learn Choy Lee Fut in a school owned by his father (Sammo Hung) and headed by his uncle (Yuen Wah). But just as they arrive, they are told that the school is about to be bought by a mega-conglomerate, and that the only way to keep ownership of it is to win a martial arts tournament a month later.
From the opening scenes that hilariously try to pass England-style Chinese city Thames Town for London (about as good a stand-in for the British capital city as Toronto would be for Rome), to a facepalm-inducing fight between martial arts greats Sammo Hung and Yuen Wah that is set against an orange CGI background and edited like a Puma commercial, Choy Lee Fut manages to annoy and amuse in equal measures. It is narratively trite, with a contrived romantic subplot involving Sammy Hung and Wang Jia-Yin (as a representative of the conglomerate), who have a soul-crushing lack of chemistry, as well as clumsy training montages and a skimpy, unimpressive finale that holds no suspense, tension or surprise. The fights are short and awkwardly edited, with a quantity of cuts and angles that would have you believe that the actors have no martial arts proficiency at all. But they actually do, even if they often have little charisma: Sammy Hung is fairly lovable but an absolute lightweight compared to his father (who appears only a few minutes here), and the same goes for Kane Kosugi (though daddy Sho doesn’t appear). At least the great Yuen Wah is having fun, which is more than can be said of us when we sat through Choy Lee Fut‘s 90 minutes.
Long Story Short : Choy Lee Fut sets expectations with the presence of action greats Sammo Hung and Yuen Wah, then crushes those expectations with trite storytelling, cheap directing, and awkward fights. *1/2