The Four III (2014)

the-four-2013-china-hong-kong

The power to investigate is a great public trust 
Emanuel Celler

Title
The Four II   (2013)
Also known as
 Cìkè Niè Yǐnniáng & Lawless Kingdom
Genre
Action, Crime, Fantasy, Melodrama, Thriller, Tragedy, Wuxia, Xianxia
Written by
Gordon Chan,   Maria Wong,   Frankie Tam
Directed by
Country of origin
China,   Hong Kong
Running time
107 minutes

oh! … background

The Four is the first piece of a film trilogy adapted from the novel series Sì Dà Míng Bǔ (The Four Great Constables) by Woon Swee Oan which had also been previously adapted as a television series. The second piece, The Four II and the third, The Four III followed in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

I am reviewing all three films in order and each piece individually. All three films are set during the reign of Emperor Huizong in the late Northern Song Dynasty.

oh! … brief

In this finale, the Divine Constabulary agents are investigating a blatant assassination attempt on the Emperor of China. The Emperor disappears and they don’t know where he is, but certain he is alive. The film follows the machinations of the villain and his cronies to a bitter conclusion.

oh! … talks film

There’s a reason why this trilogy is so good, and it’s not because the screenplay of any of the three is particularly strong, it is the fantastical elements of each of the four heroes and the stunning wuxia choreography which are carried by extraordinary CGI, 3D and special effects.

If you’ve watched the first two films and read my reviews you will already know that I am critical of Gordon Chan’s writing. Overall, the four heroes are the strongest aspect of his story. He had a great novel series to work from and should have developed a solid foundation. But, he did not! His storyline and plots or plot twists are all over the place. He was not strategic in his storytelling and that is the weakest aspect of all three films.

No matter how poorly written the screenplay is for this film, or the two that came before, this still was an exhilarating trilogy to watch, and for all its obvious, glaring flaws or hidden errors, I still enjoyed the wuxia and xianxia aspects.

The choreography in this final film was, as with the previous two, exceptional. Fast-paced, lots of wire-fu, plenty of martial arts fights, some swordplay, and many chase scenes. If this trilogy is a success it is because of Ku Huang Chiu’s mastery of wuxia choreography and the acclaimed actors and actresses and not because Gordon Chan wrote an amazing screenplay or directed particularly well.

If the acting wasn’t perfect, you cannot blame the cast, they can only interpret and use what script they’re given and follow the direction. I believe this trilogy will have received mostly negative reviews because of Gordon Chan’s inability to produce a solid screenplay with exceptional narrative, character development, and also in part to his heavy-handed use of special effects and CGI. If anything, he delved into a genre unknown to him and created a monster that resembles some of the finer aspects of wuxia (thanks to his choreographer) and is still entertaining, but lacks the depth of classic wuxia. It was an attempt, but he didn’t succeed in surpassing other wuxia greats.

The music was good, as with previous versions and the costumes were of a high-quality. These aspects matched the choreography and most of the cinematography, but couldn’t completely distract from the flaws.

The cast was exceptional, once again, but certain characters were obviously struggling. There was just too much going on. If the script had been tighter and the storyline simpler, with less chaos, then I believe this film might have been better.

oh! … that’s a wrap

This film will be enjoyed by wuxia fans, as would the trilogy. On its own, it has elements worthy of mentioning.

The trilogy is good, the story is not as strong as I would have liked and too many gaps and plot creations leave all three films flawed. The cast was exceptional, Ronald Cheng in particular – he lucked out in getting the most lines, the easiest character development and a lot of choreographed wuxia. Supporting cast members did a passing job.

I watched this once, I might be tempted to watch the trilogy again during a winter storm or if I was bored, the action is engaging. This is a trilogy I would recommend if only for the choreography and some of the special effects.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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