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      Once Upon a Time in China

      R Released May 20, 1992 1h 35m Action List
      90% Tomatometer 30 Reviews 88% Audience Score 10,000+ Ratings A man (Jet Li) must protect his martial-arts school while sorting out his feelings for a young woman (Biao Yuen) who is his aunt by adoption. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

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      Once Upon a Time in China

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      Critics Reviews

      View All (30) Critics Reviews
      Steve Murray Atlanta Journal-Constitution Hark's main goal -- as he sees actors and props spinning through the air in dazzling action ballets -- is to keep us wondering, "How'd They Do That?" Jul 27, 2023 Full Review Time Out Its real strengths are its choreography, its flashes of wit, and its all-round exuberance. Jan 26, 2006 Full Review Stephen Holden New York Times A witty, extravagantly picturesque homage to Sergio Leone. May 20, 2003 Full Review Tim Brayton Alternate Ending As much a grave history lesson as a giddy celebration of its stunt team's physical prowess. Rated: 4/5 Oct 27, 2023 Full Review Brian Susbielles InSession Film Each film moves up in the timeline as Li/Zhao faces various challenges with a modern China forming as the old lifestyle is fading away, making Wong a rarity. Mar 1, 2023 Full Review David Harris Spectrum Culture Once Upon a Time in China still possesses the power to awe, to make us believe in the power and magic of the movies. Sep 27, 2022 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

      View All (660) audience reviews
      Liam D The movie that made Jet Li (The Bodyguard from Beijing, The Enforcer) into an international superstar with Tsui Hark (Knock Off, We're Going to Eat You) stylish direction to create an historical martial arts movie with some decent comedy Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/15/24 Full Review noah g the fight scenes and stunts are insane Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/07/24 Full Review Matthew B Best of Movies/TV Series Collection Rated 5 out of 5 stars 12/19/22 Full Review matthew d Jet Li is thoughtfully mature and stuns with kung fu action! Reverence for tradition, kung fu, and China is at the soul of Tsui Hark's Hong Kong martial arts epic Once Upon a Time in China (1991). Vietnamese director and writer Tsui Hark gifted us Jet Li as a kung fu film star with a true classic of Hong Kong cinema with impeccable craftsmanship in Once Upon a Time in China. It's nice that Hark found a home as director for his inspired films in Hong Kong's movie scene. Hark's soul tearing drama is as compelling as the pulse pounding martial arts action sequences. Chinese lead actor Jet Li is phenomenal as Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung. Li is heartfelt as you can really tell the themes of remaining true to his Chinese roots and tradition greet the world with outstanding kung fu. His calm and collected Master Wong feels wise and fearsome as Li delivers shockingly fast kung fu comparable to Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat, Donnie Yen, or Tony Jaa. Jet Li solidifies himself as an instant icon of Hong Kong cinema and martial arts prowess with Once Upon a Time in China. I absolutely adored Hong Kong actress Rosamund Kwan as the drop dead gorgeous Aunt 13. You feel very sympathetic for how abused Kwan is throughout all this movie, but I was ecstatic to see how loving she portrayed Aunt 13's feelings for Jet Li's Master Wong. They have wonderfully natural chemistry on screen together. Yuen Biao is funny as the foolish and earnest Leung Foon, but his kung fu is fast and entertaining too. Jacky Cheung is hilarious as the English fluent, Chinese stuttering Buck Teeth So. Kent Cheng Jak-Si is a riot as Porky with impressive kung fu of his own. Lastly, Yen Shi-Kwan is amazing at fighting with his Iron Robe technique as Master Yim. Cinematographers Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai, Tung-Chuen Chan, David Chung, Wilson Chan, Ardy Lam Kwok-Wah, and Bill Wong Chung-Piu shoot Once Upon a Time in China with a haunting beauty for each dramatic moment in close-ups and medium shots, while also capturing jaw dropping swiftness in wide shots for all the fights. From firelit duels at night to bamboo ladder jumping battles and market street brawls, Once Upon a Time in China has it all. Hark's action choreography is unreal with hard hitting stunts, which are shot with few cuts from editor Marco Mak Chi-Sin, so that you can really see all the incredible kung fu prowess of the cast and stuntmen. Once Upon a Time in China is cut quickly at a steady pace for a brisk 134 minutes, balancing the breathtaking action sequences with heartfelt drama about China getting overtaken by Western ways. Writers Tsui Hark, Edward Leung Yiu-Ming, Elsa Tang, and Yuen Gai-Chi craft a complex story about a martial arts master defending China from foreign colonizers from America and England as well as local human sex traffickers alongside his faithful kung fu disciples at his side. It feels timeless with ever relevant feelings of Chinese national pride and respect for their storied past. Once Upon a Time in China reflects on old Chinese values, righteous morals, ancient kung fu philosophies to hold steadfast against the modernization of China. Composer James Wong Jim scores Once Upon a Time in China with thrilling music that underscores the seriousness of each historical event and piece of folklore. George Lam's theme song is exciting and beautiful on its own as well. In all, I adored Once Upon a Time in China for Tsui Hark's masterful direction and Jet Li's unbelievable kung fu talent. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review johnathon w Classic martial arts film that ranks as one of Jet Li's best, thanks to some brilliant action scenes and larger drama about foreign occupation of China during the 19th century. Li is superb as Master Wong, a martial arts teacher trying to do the right thing despite foreign corruption, along with rival gangs. While the drama is a bit melodramatic at times, the filmmakers provide some nice balance, showing the some Chinese are complicit in the corruption while some foreigners do the right thing (a Jesuit priest is shown to be a friend of Wong's when he needs him). The highlight, though, are the brilliant fight sequences, building to the legendary warehouse fight when Li and his opponent fly of ladders to fight each other. A true classic and must watch for any martial arts fan. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review William L Once Upon a Time in China bears plenty of resemblance to its martial arts film predecssors, particularly the often exaggerated reactions and jumps that defined the genre in decades prior and which 'serious' wuxia film lacks these days, but is also a pretty substantial historical epic with well-designed sets and comprehensively choreographed fight scenes. Though there is a distinct Chinese nationalist bent to the narrative, it's far less egregious than many examples of the genre or comparable American action movies of the period, and provides surprising depth and variety to characters that does not paint them into boxes based on stereotypes. Of particular note are the presence of an American missionary who volunteers to serve as a witness against domestic criminals in absence of a local to fulfill the role (this in spite of the historical context of the Boxer Rebellion), and Chinese characters that range from unnuanced collaborators to misguided antiheroes. If there's a major complaint, it's the length, particularly a middle act that is rather slow as a result of attempting to build up character depth and heighen the impact of the plight of Li's Wong Fei-Hung. There's a bit more than necessary, which is made clear by the film's sweeping finale, including an incredible duel in which Wong and a rival fight each other using ladders and verticality; it's a three-dimensional fight, largely practical (despite all the jump cuts) and a high point for the film. A fun blend of surprisingly broad story, large set design, intermittent humor and old school cheesiness (there's a guy who hides a knife in his hair, a major antagonist that uses a knife-gun, the main character can flick bullets with the power of a gun, and the English voice acting is delightfully subpar in places), Once Upon a Time in China is a bit of a transitional piece for the genre and may be Li's masterpiece as a matrial arts actor. (3.5/5) Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 06/01/21 Full Review Read all reviews
      Once Upon a Time in China

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      Cast & Crew

      93% 85% Once Upon a Time in China II 67% 67% The Bodyguard From Beijing 63% 69% Once Upon a Time in China III 89% 84% Fong Sai-Yuk 54% 67% My Father Is a Hero Discover more movies and TV shows. View More

      Movie Info

      Synopsis A man (Jet Li) must protect his martial-arts school while sorting out his feelings for a young woman (Biao Yuen) who is his aunt by adoption.
      Director
      Hark Tsui
      Producer
      Hark Tsui
      Screenwriter
      Hark Tsui, Yiu Ming Leung
      Distributor
      Republic Pictures
      Production Co
      Golden Harvest, Film Workshop Ltd., Paragon Films
      Rating
      R
      Genre
      Action
      Original Language
      Chinese
      Release Date (Theaters)
      May 20, 1992, Limited
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Jul 16, 2020
      Runtime
      1h 35m
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