A legendery killer is sought by an up and coming youth. In his meeting with the killer and his assistant the youth is told the story of the killer's past - how he lost his memory, how the assistant came to be friends with the killer, the killer's lost love and the details of many of his killings.
I have made it no secret in posts on forums and in other reviews that I think Donnie Yen is extremely over-rated. While it is painfully clear that he has amazing martial arts ability, this is rarely transferred to on screen. He has had some great moments, but he has also got quite a number of turkeys in his catalogue. Unfortunately Legend of the Wolf falls into the latter category.
There are two distinct elements to this film, the drama and the action. With the former Donnie Yen takes the viewer through a quite nauseating over the top melodrama. He wants to tell the story of a great fighter who has lost his memory, and the woman that loves him's efforts to rekindle their relationship by bringing his memory back. I was possibly a little too harsh with what I said there, as for the most part this story is just another generic story, there to pad out an action film. However, at other times I felt like throwing up. The applause for inducing this feeling has to go to the musical score that plays quite loudly over some of the drama scenes. Everything about it is as if it is saying "This is an epic drama scene, you will be moved by the power of the music, you will feel and care for the two characters! Hear me! You WILL care...!" Unfortunately it is not an epic drama scene, not even close. It quickly becomes pretentious melodrama, and any power that was there is definitely weakened by the in-your-face musical score. There really is nothing to the drama side of the film that is worth mentioning, like I said it is just another generic story, there to set up fighting.
So, what about the fighting? If the action is top class, then the film could still be a big winner even without a story. But not in this case. The action, in my opinion was sorely disappointing. People rant and moan about the Hollywood style action with the rapid editing and close camera work that stops you from actually being able to properly see what is going on. Well, that happens in Hong Kong films too, and this film is proof. For a lot of the fighting the camera is far too close to the action, it is very shaky - probably to give the fights more of a frantic feel - and the editing is really quite choppy. Things aren't helped by not having very imaginative fights. The number of guys in the bandit's gang who literally line themselves up to get thumped by Donnie Yen is unbelievable. In one fight they pretty much form two lines, one either side of Donnie, and he then proceeds to move up the line going from one side to the other knocking each person down with one or two moves. It sounds uninteresting doesn't it? Well it looks it too.
To make some fights even worse, Donnie makes very liberal use of sound effects. Now when a punch or kick makes contact or is blocked I am all for a little sound effect to give the impression of power and contact, but when the attacks are coming very quickly, having the sound effects sounding even more frequently is just plain stupid. For every strike there must have been two or three impact sounds. Again this will probably just have been to make it seem like there was a lot more going on that there really was and add to the fast paced action, but it didn't work. To add further to the fast paced feeling, quite a number of the fights are under cranked very noticeably.
There is a reasonable amount of bloodshed in the fights, a little more than I was expecting to tell the truth. The violence in the fights is pretty brutal, with decapitations and lots of neck strikes from swords letting the blood gush. This was one of the few plus points to the film. It is just a shame that there are so many more negative and stupid aspects to it, like a six-shooter gun that can fire about thirty shots before having to reload. Personally I think Legend of the Wolf is a film to avoid.