Once Upon a Time in China V (1994)

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 11/01/2005

Finding himself on the run after a group of eight foreign powers have started a war with China, Wong Fei-Hung (Zhao) and his group, including sidekicks Fu (Mok) and Clubfoot (Hung), head to a small town to meet up with his fiancée Aunt Yee (Kwan) and students So and Porky (Cheng). When Wong gets to town, he finds it over-run by pirates. Instead of heading to safety in Hong Kong, Wong and his friends decide to help out the town.

OUATIC5 is quite different from the other films in the series. While the first four were (for the most part) very serious, OUATIC5 feels more like a Jackie Chan or Wong Jing movie. In fact, besides a fairly gory opening sequence, the majority of the first half of the film is more of a romantic comedy than anything else, as Wong juggles Aunt Yee and her sister May. The last half of the movie was obviously inspired by Jackie Chan's Project A, as the group heads to the pirates' island hideaway. The last half-hour of the film is filled with action (both of the kung-fu and gun-fu variety) and quite fun to watch. Again, Zhao Wen-Zhuo can't completely fill Jet Li's shoes, but he looks a lot better here than in part 4, and the supporting cast (especially Hung) do a good job as well.

On the surface, OUATIC5 seems like a strange combination, but it works -- at least most of the time. Like the other films in the series, OUATIC5 tries a bit too hard in bringing home its point. The ending, which features a thinly-veiled metaphor for the 1997 Chinese takeover of Hong Kong, is so painfully obvious it's not even funny. I thought Tsui Hark wouldn't have to resort to such cliches.

OUATIC5 isn't as great as the first three movies, but at least it's fun -- something the previous movie wasn't.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/18/2005
Summary: The best installment in the series!!!

The fifth and probably the best installment in the ‘Once Upon a Time in China’ series, with Tsui Hark changing roles with Yuen Bun, to take the front position of director, once again, and Yuen Bun taking the position of action-choreographer. We even see the return of Zhao Wen Zhou and the usual cast of followers, including Leung Fu (Max Mok Siu-Chung), Club Foot (Xiong Xin-Xin), Aunt Yee (Rosamund Kwan), Aunt May (Jean Wong) and the Father Wong Kei-Ying (Lau Shun).

The movie starts off exactly where OUATIC4 left off, the Wong Family and their entourage, are on their way to meet with Aunt Yee. Although due to the mishaps of the previous installment, evidently Aunt May is still carrying a candle for Wong Fei Hung and this obviously leads into a sort of love triangle. Tsui Hark does an excellent job of showing Wong Fei Hung miserably trying to handle both of the women and not trying to create any sort of misunderstanding, although the usual mistaken intentions and switched signals do subside.

Finally after 30 minutes of dillydallying, the real plot thickens, the town they happen to be residing in is under siege from foul pirates led by Stephen Tung (from other minor roles in ‘Hard Boiled’ and ‘The Twin Dragons’). Wong Fei-Hung and his gang decide to help out the townspeople, by somehow sneaking into their main camp, which is located on a remote island off the coast of china, and capture or kill all the head pirates, responsible for the wrongdoings in the town. This leads to lots of fighting and mis-adventures, finally arriving on the remote island where the crew, dress up as pirates to fool the others. They finally lay their hands on a heap of missing treasure belonging to the Chinese government / reigning dynasty and intend on retrieving and returning it to the proper authorities, only to the dismay of the pirates when they find out later on into the movie. The pirates then travel back to the town, hell-bent on taking back what was theirs originally and also annihilating Wong Fei Hung and all responsible. The final showdown between Stephen Tung and Wong Fei-Hung is charismatic and guns blazing glory, with little room for defects. Also one of the best fight scenes between the Pirate King (father to Stephen Tung’s Character) and Wong Fei-Hung, occurs about two-thirds into the movie, where they literally fight on vases and ceramic pots and are pretty evenly matched, one of the toughest foes Wong Fei-Hung has to deal with throughout the saga.

Overall the storyline and character development is excellently portrayed, where Tsui Hark picks up on mis-directedness and defects of the previous installment and improves them ten-fold. There is even the appearance of Porky Lang (‘Kent Cheng’, from other memorable roles in ‘Carry on Hotel’ and ‘Crime Story’) and Buck Tooth Sole (played by ‘Roger Kwok’) both whom had disappeared since the first installment. We even have the two-guns blazing style portrayed in this picture in the image of John Woo, and Tsui Hark certainly deserves some credit towards the imaginative action style used throughout. The heart and soul of the OUATIC series lie in the action and story and those are definitely solid in this movie. The politics of the previous installment have been thankfully replaced with the image of brother / sisterhood, lust of greed (the rice owner, who overcharges on rice due to the turmoil in China), justice and love. This film might not offer as much invigorating storyline and subplots, as its predecessors, but nevertheless it is indeed the most enjoyable out of all of them.

Overall Rating: 8.9/10

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 08/26/2002
Summary: Back on track again

As the OUATIC series' popularity declined following the decline of the martial arts genre, you might expect the quality of the movies to do the same. However, rest assured that OUATIC V is not only one of the best in the series, but it is also one of the best in the genre. It is a well-crafted cinematic piece that will more than satisfy true fans of the genre.

Having watched all 6 installments to the series, I feel confident about it being one of the greatest movie series ever and certainly my personal favorite. This part, specifically, ranks as my second favorite out of the six. As underrated as it is, there is currently no decent print of this film on the market. You have a choice between the Tai Seng VHS and the Universe DVD, which I think is even worse than the VHS. Either way, they are of terrible quality.

The movie is truly well-crafted. Although Zhao Wen Zhou's ability as a martial artist is not as strong as Jet Li's, he looks quite good in the fight scenes. There are several outstanding scenes, and you will be on the edge of your seat. Also, this has the most humor out of all six episodes. Part 2 attempted to bring out some funny stuff, but it just didn't work. Zhao Wen Zhou, a bit slow himself, is a better comedian than most people would expect, and certainly better than Jet Li on most ocassions. You will have plenty of good laughs. At the same time, you get some serious drama too, so this is a very well-mixed movie.

Note on the cinemotography and setting. The movie actually looks older than its predecessors. It looks to have been made in the 80s, with all the Western movie elements. It's just a different experience than watching part 1-4. The production value is quite good tho, and you will eventually adjust.

I can't say enough good things about this new wave gem. One can only hope for a remastered print.


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/17/2002
Summary: GOOD & BAD

The main advantages is that this is better than the last, but still going downwards fast. Also Rosamund Kwan is back in this one again, after not appearing in the last one. Vincent Zhao once again plays Wong Fei Hung in another adventure.

In my opinion, the only OUATIC films wort watching was parts 1, 2 & 5 (this one). The rest were nothing special.

Rating: 3/5

(This rating is based on the year of release & genre; not compared to other movies made before or after the year.)

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 05/31/2001
Summary: Quite good, from what I could see

ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 5 - I watched this on a Malaysian VCD, which I have to say is bloody awful. It's full frame, and with subtitles in English, Chinese and Malaysian all on screen at once. Urk. The film itself seemed quite enjoyable though - none of the epic glory of the first two parts, but some pleasant enough Wong Fei Hung action. This time he fights... pirates! And why not. There's some fun romantic confusion between WFH and Aunt 13 and Aunt May (Aunt May is... Michelle Reis, I think (hard to see on the VCD!), and she took over when Rosamund wasn't available for Pt. 4. This time they're both there and both quite in love with our hero). The sidekicks get some little plot bits of their own too.

The action in the film looked pretty good from what I could actually see. Quite OTT stuff inna 90's style. It was very hard to really appreciate on the VCD though. I think Xiong Xin Xin as club foot actually got more fights than Chiu Man Cheuk as WFH, and he was very impressive. Shame he's such an ugly chap or maybe he'd have gotten some more interesting roles :-) The film actually features as much gun-fu than it does kung-fu, which was quite unexpected. The boys get their hands on some pistols, and do some very woo-style moves with them.

Oh yes, and Tsui Hark not only wrote & directed but composed the score for this one! It's not too bad either. Not in the same league as the music from the first two parts, but a good effort.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/29/2001
Summary: Ummm..........

I can't remember much about this movie but i do know that NONE of the OUAT series was BAD!! I remember watching this and thinking the villians seem less and less powerful!! Anyway i remember it was pretty good and worth watching but i can't give this a rating since i can't remember it that well!!

Reviewed by: tcooc
Date: 12/15/2000
Summary: Nobody can play 'Wong Fei Hung' as good as Jet Li

Sorry, but no one can play 'Wong Fei Hung' as good as the master Jet Li. I have to say Jackie Chan's profromance in Drunken Master II as young 'Wong Fei Hung' was excellent but that totally different.
By the way should Jet's surname be 'LE' and not 'LI'.


Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/09/2000

Fifth in the Wong Fei-Hong saga. This time Wong Fei-Hong fights against a bunch of mean, nasty pirates to save a coastal town from their depradations.

Once Upon a Time in China V has Zhao Wen-Zhao as Wong Fei-Hong instead of Jet Li. Those are some big shoes to fill. He's quite good though he is no Jet Li. This film is quite a bit sillier than the others I've seen in the series (I, III, & VI though VI is also silly) which was different, but not a bad thing. There are some really good action scenes and some great flying-fu gunplay which was really interesting (John Woo, meet Jet Li!). The only real downside was some truly godawful orchestra music (Hollywood style) which was horribly intrusive. Other than that, it's well worth seeing.

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 12/09/1999

This movie was a nice surprise; the fourth installment was pretty dull, cookie-cutter stuff, so I was happy to see that this one was actually pretty good. It seems Tsui Hark realized they'd never be able to re-capture the impact of the original, so they abandoned all pretenses of depth and just made a cool action movie. The combination of guns and wires is really fun to watch; try to find flying gunslingers in an American film!

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

19th Century martial arts master Wong Fei-Hong and Aunt Yeereturn to do battle against evil forces in the fifth installment of this epic action series, laced with sharp wit and comedy.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This movie was way cool. No Jet Li in this version of the popular series, but the lead actor is incredible and believable. The thing that makes this film work, though, is the interaction of the group of heroes. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious, you got the feeling that they really were close to each other and had built up their relationships. The kung fu is a little standard, but there was enough originality for me to keep wanting to see more. It's cool just to see a 100+ year old guy fighting with Wong Fei Hong.


[Reviewed by Dale Whitehouse]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Competing bands of pirates have throttled the South China sea, leaving much of the land population -- even government magistrates -- to starve or have to steal for food. Wong Fey-Hong (Zhao Wen Zhou) and his kung fu students hijack one pirate vessel, raid a hidden warehouse, and achieve inevitable victory; in the meantime, Rosamund Kwan competes with another sweet young thing for the master's affections. Wong has a great fight with a 100-year old pirate while balancing on vases, and his bucktoothed student is John Woo-atorally balletic with guns and bullets. Entertaining, but a tad overstuffed.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7