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Directed by Patrick Leung, Wu Dang is a sort of Indiana Jones but with HK superstar Vincent Zhao (most notably Tsui Hark’s masterpiece Dao (the Blade) [1995], but also Yuen Woo Ping’s Su Qi Er (True Legend) [2010] and a number of others) as Tang Yunlong, an archaeology professor, who has just returned from the United States to a rapidly westernising republic-period China with his daughter Tang Ning (Xu Jiao). He meets with an illicit antiques dealer, Paul Chen (Tam Chun-yin) and ends up stealing a map from him that contains the location of seven ancient magical treasures hidden within the Wu Dang (or Wu Tang for all the hip hop heads) mountains. A martial arts competition hosted by the local monastery proves the perfect cover for Tang Yunlong to try and steal the artefacts, so perfect in fact that Tianxin (Mi Yang), a wily lady thief has had the same idea.

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The two soon team up and before long it transpires that they have feelings for each other and both actually have altruistic motives for the thefts. Meanwhile Tang Ning, who, with her father’s kung fu training, is storming through the competition, begins to develop feelings for the good-natured-but-soft-of-hopeless-but-secretly-developing-into-amazing young monk Shui Heyi (Louis Fan).

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Overall Wu Dang is actually a lot cheesier than you’d expect and generally feels like a Chinese entry into the Indiana Jones series(not the way you remember the movies, but the way they actually are with silly romance, the annoying kid, occasional pratfall gags and generally cheesy 80s special effects). The special effects have a strange cheesy 80s vibe even though they are obviously CG and the second half of the film feels a lot like an early 90s Tsui Hark production.

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The plot is entertaining and the production is good enough to keep you thoroughly entertained, but it’s one of those films that seems fine while you are watching it but you realise that it’s below par the second the credits start rolling. There are a lot of clichés as well: bamboo forests, fight on floating platforms, mountain-top fights, a couple that falls in love through fighting, a benevolent elderly monk that sees through all and knows the truth, etc. Not that this is necessarily all that bad, the majority of the clichés feel familiar rather than tired. However, given the vast number of other HK martial arts archaeologist / explorer action adventure with a hint of fantasy-type films that exist (Jackie Chan is responsible for about six alone), Wu Dang isn’t worth it.

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