After a couple of ensemble and lightweight pieces like All’s Well Ends Well and Treasure Hunt released earlier this year, Cheung’s finally cast as the protagonist in Legendary Amazons, based on the folk story of some widows and women whose menfolk were slaughtered in war. When, the last surviving male heir of the famous Yang clan, Yang Wengguang (played by Xiao Mingyu), is also conscripted by the emperor, the Yang women don armor and ride like a dozen frenzied Mulans, into battle to protect and fight alongside him, leading the army to victory.

This beloved story, set in the Song dynasty in China, has been retold many times in film, TV series and even cartoons. In fact, this version is a remake of a 1972 Shaw film, the 14 Amazons, which also stars Cheng Pei-pei, the Madame of the Wuxia movie world circa the 1960s.

With a jaw-dropping budget of US$20 million budget, and sufficient martial credos lent to it from having director Frankie Chan (of The Prodigal Son and Outlaw Brothers) and producer super gongfu star Jackie Chan at its helm. The movie was all brawn and bravado with impeccable martial arts choreography, orchestrated by Wu Bin, a veteran coach with Beijing’s wushu team. Committing a slip that some martial arts movies tend to make, the movie spent a tad too much time focusing on the intricate minutiae of the fighting scenes, which were polished nonetheless, and less time on the story’s narrative.

With verve and vigour, the ladies in the movie swash buckled with convincing chivalry, all the while dressed in full battle regalia, befitting their femininity, and splashing a riot of colour against the harsh backdrop of the battlefield. Exquisitely and beautifully designed, the costumes were perhaps one of the best ever seen in a movie steeped in history like this one was.

However, for a film that cost that much to make, it was bereft of the acting chops that could bring the story to life. Instead the acting felt contrived, with Cecilia Cheung’s many interpretations of shock often come across as comedic rather than dramatic. It also seemed as if the film was wagering on Cheng Pei-pei, who played the Yang clan’s matriarch, to carry the story forward, albeit limply. Her compellingly persuasive portrayal of a matriarch trying to hold the family together was poignantly moving and resonated with honesty and depth of feeling.

If you were to look at the movie in terms of the calibre of its costumes, the music, and the flawless martial arts choreography, it is a worthy watch. Period and martial arts buffs would also find this film partial to their appetite.


Movie: Legendary Amazons
Rating: 2/5
Opens: Nov 17
Duration: 108 min
Language: Mandarin Chinese (With English and Mandarin subtitles)
Age Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Action,
Director: Frankie Chan
Cast: Cheng Pei-Pei, Cecilia Cheung, Richie Ren