‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’
When it came out 16 years ago, Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was no mere martial arts film. It was a downright tony wuxia for Westerners who’d never heard the term “wuxia,” who’d never bought a Shaw Brothers bootleg before, whose knowledge of Hong Kong/Chinese action cinema may have only been Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Where the first “Crouching Tiger” was grand and lyrical and melancholy, its belated sequel is a straight-up, junky, more or less anonymous ass-kicker — closer to a knock-off than a continuation.
Michelle Yeoh is back, as is legendary stunt choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (who also directed), and many of the elements are the same: there’s a young upstart, a cucumber cool love interest (Donnie Yen), plus some mean jerks after the titular sword. It’s also rushed, clocking in at just around 90 minutes, acted in sometimes strained English (as opposed to strained Mandarin), and, in its climax, indulges in some hideous CGI green screen. It also knows to deliver the goods, early and often. With lowered expectations it’s still a delight, especially when Yen is pulling a Stephen Chow and taking out a squadron of baddies by stomping on their feet.