Sakra Review: Come For The Furious Action, Not The Confusing Story In Donnie Yen’s Wuxia Epic - 8days Skip to main content



Sakra Review: Come For The Furious Action, Not The Confusing Story In Donnie Yen’s Wuxia Epic

Donnie Yen kicks off the CNY week with his adaptation of Louis Cha's classic wuxia novel, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils.
Sakra Review: Come For The Furious Action, Not The Confusing Story In Donnie Yen’s Wuxia Epic

Sakra (NC16)

Starring Donnie Yen, Chen Yuqi, Cya Liu, Kara Wai, Wu Yue

Directed by Donnie Yen

Sakra, CNY wuxia blockbuster, owes its thrills more to Donnie Yen’s fabled screen mythology than even to the actual fable itself.

It’s great to see a proper wuxia action-fantasy with big sets, wide scenery and mad leaps over ancient rooftops the old-school way. Just suspend your disbelief over Yen's ludicrous superman aura as Qiao Feng, the cocky leader of the Beggars’ Sect in the Song dynasty.

He gets severely wronged with his own adoring followers turning against him en masse on unproven murder charges and an iffy origin. Is he a loyal Song patriot or a traitorous “Khitan dog” from the barbaric north? Not even the man himself knows.

Someone produces a damning letter which nobody fact-checks and suddenly Qiao is dumped faster than a cheap suit from hero to zero. Worse, the guy possesses monumentally bad timing in being caught by witnesses at the scene of the killings of his adoptive parents and Shaolin teacher in comical deja vu.

To prove his allegiance, Qiao stabs himself multiple times in front of his accusers. But since it’s Donnie Yen, it’s no big deal when he should be rushing asap to the ER.

Here’s the thing. When Yen dominates a fight flick as main man and director, we only want to see him. We’re not motivated to find out what the beef is with the rest of the cast. Especially when they seem subservient to Qiao charging like a maligned bull in a china shop to seek his true identity and help a very injured servant girl, A Zhu (Chen Yuqi).

The maiden, the only person who believes his innocence, can disguise herself absurdly as other folks, but she doesn’t know who her real parents are too. In their joint quest for truth, Chen carries the acting weight of the tale while Yen goes from point to point with the same facial expression. “There is no difference between emotion and non-emotion,” Qiao proffers in too revealing a moment.

Fans of Chinese novelist, Louis Cha, would know that in this screen adaptation of his wuxia classic, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, sticking quite closely to source material, Qiao is an honourable super-fighter caught up in a web of deceitful treachery and power play by an unseen hand plotting chaos to restore a former glory, Putin-style.

Inscrutable characters pop up to trick our hero and mess up the audience with unclear flashbacks adding to the confusion. Sakra slows down for some downtime between Qiao and A Zhu. But its pacing, as is often with such conspiracy-laden actioners, seems rushed at the wrong places.

Yen essays his Qiao Feng straight from Thanos in the Avengers movies. He’s near invincible to sure-win level when he pulverises entire clans with unbeatable kung fu and amazing qi energy which he uses to blow foes swarming over him away, ala the Incredible Hulk. Qiao Feng smash.

The primary set-piece battle — a prolonged sequence pitting one dude against an army of differently skilled combatants at the enemy's stronghold — makes Ip Man look like a schoolyard scuffle. It’s simply terrific.

But forget about the extensive wirework. There’s excitement even in seeing Yen hold charismatic court as Qiao toasts former pals — ruffians, chiefs, Shaolin monks — by smashing cups of wine to end their bro code before he proceeds to end them.

The kinsmen who owe their lives to him line up to pledge to terminate their ex-bestie. It’s a promise the reluctant but unbridled Qiao reciprocates in spades as a totally un-PC (politically correct) wronged man who clobbers as efficiently as a spurned businessman. “I hope that in the next life, we can still be good brothers,” Qiao declares in karmic chivalry. Sure. Maybe in the next three sequels?

Meanwhile, we’re thrilled by the healing power of Donnie Yen in restoring our faith in wuxia flicks. In the climactic battle, he even looks like a doctor in a white coat chalking up a very prosperous CNY body count as an unstoppable animal in righteous feral fury.

And we’re not talking about the year of any timid rabbit here. (3.5/5 stars)



Photo: Clover Films/Golden Village

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