Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Film Review: The Wrath of Vajra (2013)

The Wrath of Vajra (Review)
China/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Well Go USA)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...succeeds in delivering consistent, adrenaline-filled action..."

The Temple of Hades, a Japanese death cult, re-emerges to destroy the spirit of China by kidnapping their children and training them to kill for Japan...

The Wrath of Vajra follows former member of the clan, K-29 (Yu Xing), also known as the King of Vajra, as he visits the Hades shrine to rescue to kidnapped children and avenge the brother he lost years ago. In order to do so, K-29 must defeat several master martial artists and his lifelong nemesis. Oh, there are also some prisoners of war who are forced to fight for their freedom, sign to join the Hades, or die. Not really heavy on story, especially considering the one hour-forty five minute runtime, Wrath of Vajra leads to great, highly-stylized fight sequence, and a predictable ending; the "twist" during the final act was predictable, and, for some reason, the film feels the need to explain it during the ending -- as if it needs to cover all holes or answer the questions no one was going to ask.

The Wrath of Vajra has great action, but a mediocre story. First and foremost, the plot takes the easy, lazy, and cliché way by making Japan the super-villain of the film; I know Japan doesn't have the brightest history for the time period, but it just comes off as lazy and overwhelming -- at least make it a challenge or even plausible like Ip Man. Next, the plot fails to explain several major concepts, like Vajra -- is that the main characters name or title? What does it mean in either case? Also, aside from K-29, none of the characters are really explained or developed, even in the slightest, which makes it really hard to care for any of them. Also, there were some conflicting moods where at one pint if feels like a badass, throwback kung fu flick, like when K-29 fights the humongous Tetsumaku, but then it later feels like it wants to be a serious drama.

After so many complaints, though, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't entertained. Wrath of Vajra still managed to keep me hooked from beginning to end, no matter how ineffective or cliché the story was. The forgiving pace and the well-balanced and versatile action helped the film's overall delivery. The action choreography was creative, with some very unique and satisfying action sequences. The use of slow-motion and different zooms also helped the film create a distinct style; it also helped make the fights feel authentic, as if you could feel the force of the different blows. If you can ignore the story's flaws, or if you don't see them as flaws like I do, then Wrath of Vajra is a thrilling and creative action film.

Yu Xing is great in his first leading role -- much like Tiger Chen in Man of Tai Chi, Yu Xing delivers an unexpectedly solid performance with action star charisma. Not all was great in the acting, though. Whenever an actor spoke English, it felt very odd, wooden, and out of place, and I'm talking about the English-speaking cast -- the prisoners of war, in particular. The film is shot nicely, the camerawork stood out; some of it was a little over-edited, but it really wasn't too detrimental or even noticeable. The music was epic, a bit overwhelming, but well-fitted during certain action scenes. Director Wing-cheong Law creates a consistent and entertaining action film, but the story is definitely lacking.

Overall, The Wrath of Vajra fails to deliver a competent story -- it's overall cliché, occasionally boring, a little inconsistent, but, worst of all, it's not at all daring. But, The Wrath of Vajra succeeds in delivering consistent, adrenaline-filled action through creative action choreography and editing; and, it creates a star out of leading man Yu Xing. If you only care about action, this is a gem. If you're looking at the complete picture, The Wrath of Vajra is worth a rental at most.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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