Chopsocky action star Jet Li looks a whole lot more relaxed in “Last Hero in China,” a semi-comic, well-mounted gloss on his Wong Fei-hung character (from “Once Upon a Time in China”) that keeps all its plates spinning from start to finish. There’s plenty of entertainment here for more general auds, as well as genre nuts.
Back-of-a-coaster plot has martial arts ace Wong (Li) returning from Hong Kong to his training school in Canton, only to find his rent hiked. Local governor Lui, no slouch at the fighting arts himself, has it in for the saintly Wong, as well as being in cahoots with Western businessmen.
Prolific comedy director Wong Jing keeps the pratfalls and goofy stuff on a tight rein and seems happy to turn most of the pic over to action specialist Yuen Woo-ping and his brother. From the opening set-to in a Hong Kong ticket office, through the inventive tournament sequences, to the mano a mano showdown between hero and villain, the fight scenes are lively and full of character, expressing plot tensions as well as sheer technique.
Ensemble playing is fine, and tech credits par. Chinese title means “Huang Fei-hung: Iron Chicken vs. Centipede,” referring to the combat styles in the final tournament. H.K. box office last spring was a slick $ HK18 million.