Warriors of Virtue (1997)

warriorsofvirtue

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Hong Kong director Ronny Yu melds fantasy films such as The NeverEnding Story and the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with this pretty decent martial arts fantasy film has not turtles, but kangaroos are the titular heroes.

Ryan Jeffers is a young boy with a disability, which as a result, makes him an outcast. He spends his nights at a Chinese restaurant owned by head cook and martial arts expert Ming. One night, Ming tells Ryan a mythical story about a land called Tao, where five great warriors represent the elements of water, fire, earth, wood, and metal. These warriors of virtue protect the land and live by the code of never killing but just protect. Never would Ryan think his life would change after hearing this story.

When he is invited to an “initiation” by his school’s quarterback star Brad, he is forced to walk a pipe inside an underground sewer. However, the pipe breaks and Ryan falls in the water. He ends up in the mystical Tao with a manuscript. When an evil army intends to get the manuscript, Ryan finds himself rescued by a kangaroo looking warrior, Yun. Ryan eventually meets Master Chung, who is the mentor of the Warriors of Virtue. They are Yun, Yee, Lai, Chi, and Tsun.  Yun, however, has distanced himself from the warriors.

Ryan meets a young girl, Elysia, who seems sweet at first. However, she is revealed to be the mistress of Komodo, the evil warlord who wants the manuscript because he wants to rule Tao. Elysia is especially after Yun for the accidental death of her brother. Yun eventually musters up the courage to rejoin his fellow warriors and together with Ryan, who may be the only one to understand the manuscript, must find a way to bring Tao back to peace.

Upon the first time seeing this film, the creation of the Law Brothers, shortly after its initial release, it was thought to be a rip-off of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In fact, one could think the title should be “Kung Fu Fighting Kangaroos”. However, seeing it today, it is quite an interesting martial arts adventure that melds animal heroes with the fantasy epic.  The film’s performance is truly driven by Ronny Yu’s interesting style of direction and Peter Pau’s exhilarating cinematography. As a matter of fact, elements used in Yu’s Bride with White Hair films could see a similarity in cinematic technique.

Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen hams it up quite well as the warlord Komodo. Complete with a look that would resemble 80’s glam rock, Macfadyen looks like he is having fun with the role of the lead nemesis. Mario Yedidia does well as the young boy who finds himself an outcast but eventually finds himself in a world he has never been to and musters up the courage to become the person he is meant to be. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA’s Dennis Dun makes a great appearance as Ming, the restaurateur who befriends Ryan and tells him about the world of Tao, as if it was a premonition of things to come.

Major kudos must go to Jack Tate, Doug Jones, Don Lewis, J. Todd Adams, and Adrienne Corcoran, who play the titular Warriors of Virtue. Yes, they may look like kangaroos, but they do quite well while Chinese stuntmen perform the elaborate action sequences, which were choreographed by Tsui Siu-Ming. The action is where you can see the similarity in cinematic techniques from Yu and Pau, along with editor David Wu, that is reminiscent of Bride with White Hair films.

Warriors of Virtue is a pretty decent film by today’s standards. Yes, the heroes are kangaroos but Ronny Yu uses techniques used in his groundbreaking Hong Kong films to make an elaborate fantasy film about believing in oneself. Worth a rental.

WFG RATING: B

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents a Law Brothers Entertainment production in association with IJL Creations and China Film Co-Production Corp. Director: Ronny Yu. Producers: Yoram Barzilai, Lyle Howry, Chris Law, Dennis K. Law, Jeremy Law, Joseph Law, Ron Law, and Patricia Ruben. Writers: Michael Vickerman and Hugh Kelley; story by Chris Law, Dennis K. Law, Jeremy Law, and Ron Law. Cinematography: Peter Pau. Editing: David Wu.

Cast: Angus Macfadyen, Mario Yedidia, Marley Shelton, Chao-Li Chi, Dennis Dun, Jack Tate, Doug Jones, Don Lewis, J. Todd Adams, Adrienne Corcoran, Michael J. Anderson, Tom Towles, Lee Arenberg, Roy Ceballos.

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