Review: THE WRATH OF VAJRA Is Pure Martial Arts Madness

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
Martial arts films are a dime a dozen in Southeast Asia, however, finding a really good one is pretty difficult these days. Either the film's action is overly dependent on goofy wire work, or the filmmakers let ridiculous things like plot get in the way of a good ass-whuppping. Thankfully, director Law Wing-cheong has learned from the mistakes of the past and puts his best foot forward in what is one of the most fun martial arts films I've seen in years with The Wrath of Vajra.

Any real attempt to describe the plot is beside the point, the film's action is where the real meat is. There are some bad guys, a secret clan of trained assassins controlled by Japanese occupation forces in the 1930's, called the Temple of Hades, who have decided that the best way to subjugate the Chinese populace is not through brute military force, but intimidation. Standing against the Temple of Hades is a rag-tag crew of fighters led by a man known as the King of the Vajra, K-29 (Yu Xing in his first leading role). K-29 is tasked with fighting his way through the top fighters of the Temple of Hades in order to earn a battle with the Temple's leader, K-28, a former friend and fighting brother. It's your classic tournament fighting set up.

A dozen or so tightly choreographed fight sequences later and you-know-who ends up saving the day and all of China, of course without them even knowing that the battle for their eternal souls was going on. I'm almost tempted to throw a spoiler warning in there, but, come on, would we really expect any other outcome? This film, like any good film, isn't about the ending, it's about the journey, and Law manages to cram in a ton of fighting in this 110 minute kung fu-fest. Sure, some fights are better than others, and I think that the film spends far too long on a particular battle between a gargantuan Tetsumaku Rai (Jiang Baocheng), leader of the Violence Clan, and K-29, but that deficiency is more than made up for in the Crazy Monkey fight.

Crazy Monkey. Now THIS is a character. All that we know about Crazy Monkey is that he's the Vajra (leader) of the Zombie Clan and that he's like a crazy monkey. The role is performed to ridiculous perfection by "Poppin'" Hyun Joon, a Korean pop-and-lock specialist who just happens to look awesome using his insane dancing skills in conjunction with some mean fighting. A lot of this fight looks like wire work, which fits with the insane momentum the sequence builds, however, most of it was done in camera, no tricks, and it's incredibly impressive for it. If anyone steals the spotlight from the rather stoic Yu Xing, it's Poppin' Hyun Joon. Where's my Crazy Monkey movie?

If the film has any defects, they are, in my opinion, a result of the viewer looking for something that was never there in the first place. The film is a simplistic slug-fest, designed to get pulses racing, and deliver death-matches galore, and on that score it succeeds mightily. Yu Xing may not have the charisma of a Donnie Yen or a Jackie Chan, but I'll stand him next to someone like Collin Chou any day of the week. At 35 years of age, he's just ripe enough to evolve to the next level in China or Hong Kong. Law Wing-cheong has Donnie Yen's Iceman and Iceman 2 on his plate already, so he's already made it out from under the shadow of his mentor, the great Johnnie To. This is a team that needs to make more movies like this one, because The Wrath Of Vajra is fucking awesome.
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  • Zeto

    I kind of like it. But it's a long shot from being good.

    For a movie almost 2-hour long, there are only 3 "big fights". And while they are good, they're also damn short.

    Furthermore. The fights are powerful, but they're heavily edited, suffer from slow-mo overuse, and the punches are CGI enhanced. And yes... there is also pretty obvious wire-work.

    And, it is always a turn off seeing a chinese actress (the beautiful Yamei Zhang) interpreting a japanese character. Just doesn't work for me. It's too difficult look for a japanese actress? I think not.

  • Qinlong

    I must say I didn't really like it that much. The plot is too distractingly stupid, the acting mostly charisma-free (Xing Yu has good moves but he's just too damn bland as a lead, compared to his fun supporting turns in Shaolin or Flashpoint), and the constant slow-mo/fast-mo and pointless zoom in/zoom out undermines the throwback factor. Also, it was actually less action-oacked than expected : for a full hour, the only actual drawn-out fight is the one against Tetsumaku.
    It is indeed fun, better than TYG 2, and there's the always classy Yasuaki Kurata, so it does have a likeable quality to it.

  • wikig1itch

    After the disapointments of Special ID and Tom Yum Goong 2, I'v got to say The Wrath of Vajra was a godsend. Best martial arts film so far this year, looking forward to getting around to seeing Once Upon A Time In Shanghai soon as well.

  • RoboticPlague

    I agree. The Crazy Monkey fight was one of the best I have seen in recent movie.

  • I cannot wait to watch this film! Chances are, it will probably be a long one.

  • Dave Baxter

    "Either the film's action is overly dependent on goofy wire work, or the
    filmmakers let ridiculous things like plot get in the way of a good
    ass-whuppping."

    Personally, I think they let ridiculous things like generic, uninteresting, ridiculous plots get in the way, not just "plot". I'd still like to see martial arts movie makers attempt BETTER plots and not just toss it out the window as the only solution.

    But crazy good action regardless of plot will still be thoroughly enjoyed in the interim. :)

  • Zeto

    I'll see it. :-)

  • drkhrse

    I loved this movie. Definitely one of the better martial art flicks from the last few years. Tom Yum Goong 2 does not hold a candle to the martial arts in this film.

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