Famed martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) melds his trademark wirework with gonzo CGI fantasy in directing this dizzying action-packed tale of familial treachery, sacrifice, and loyalty. In countless over-the-top set pieces, Yuen delivers striking combat clarity without sacrificing the visceral editing and crazy digital effects of modern bloodbaths. Bursting with gravity-defying battles, the director's story concentrates on Su Can (Vincent Zhao), a Qing dynasty warrior who—after retiring to marry Ying (Zhou Xun)—finds himself pitted against foster brother Yuan (Andy On), who's bent on exacting revenge against his adopted relatives for murdering his real father. Su's third-act mastery of "Drunken Fist" techniques against foreign goliaths is frenzied but more traditional than the narrative's initial half, in which reality's boundaries are stretched during showdowns atop a raging waterfall and between combatants suspended against the walls of a snake-filled well. Cameos from legends Michelle Yeoh and the late David Carradine further contribute to the proceedings' epic might, and in Yuan—a pale-faced monster with armor sewn into his skin and a Five Venom Fists power fueled by tarantula and scorpion poison—the film boasts a Mortal Kombat–style villain of a most awesome order.
Yeoh's cameo lends Crouching Tiger cred.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., June 3. Rated R. 116 minutes.