HK Cinema - 1990

After the success of the Shaolin Trilogy, Jet Liís career fell into a bit of a muddle. Kung-fu films were losing their popularity and the action stars had to make the transition to modern action films.

Jet directed an interesting but less than enjoyable film called Born to Defense in 1986 and after its failure at the box office went to the USA to make a few films. First was Dragon Fight with Stephen Chow and Nina Li. This is an enjoyable though very slight effort. After this, Jet teamed up with Tsui Hark in America to make The Master which is set in modern day San Francisco. It was considered such a bad film that it was not released till years later. It is a poorly made film, but it has a few scenes of great kung-fu action.

The collaboration of Tsui Hark and Jet Li was soon to have a huge impact though with Once Upon a Time in China. It revitalized the kung-fu films with a style that used wires for dazzling and exciting effects. To some people this use of wires was like Dylan going electric. Wires had been utilized in HK films for a very long time, but with this film and many that followed it was taken to another level. If done well, it can be breath taking, but when done poorly it can ruin a film. Many people dislike wires because it lessens the need for the actor to utilize his own skills. If done well, wires can make nearly anyone appear to have great athletic skills.

This film brought back the historical kung-fu films and led to a number of sequels and other films as well.