Gordon Chan’s The Four, based off a Wu Xia novel by Wen Ruian, is a convoluted mess of a film, that still manages to entertain through its action and flair. The film focuses on the Divine Constabulary, a department commissioned by the Emperor himself, to handle secret missions and operate in the shadows. Zhuge Zhengwo (Anthony Wong) leads the group of spies, which contains four members who utilize superhuman powers to help accomplish their missions. When a large amount of counterfeit money begins to circulate in the empire, the Divine Constabulary begin to work the case to find out who’s behind it. With other government agencies spying on them and the conspiracy getting larger as they find out more, the Divine Constabulary uses their powers to stop evil and bring peace to the empire.
While any good kung fu movie manages to be entertaining enough through its action sequences, The Four ups the ante by capitalizing on the superhero genre and make something different. This single element makes The Four worth watching, whether you’re a kung fu fan or a fan of superheros, you’ll find something appealing about it. I was reminded of Andrew Lau’s The Storm Riders, in terms of spectacle and presence of all the characters powers, but The Four manages to make it much more grandiose and more along the lines of a Hollywood film, rather than a Hong Kong one. The integration of the CGI powers, alongside the physical wirework and fight choreography work extremely well with one another and present some incredibly well done action sequences.
The major problem with the film is that its incredibly convoluted, with too many characters, plot elements and story lines that get in the way of the film being completely effective. From romantic sub plots to betrayals and major plot reveals, the film takes too much time and juggles too many elements to create a solid dramatic effect. What’s there is good, but it could have been made much better, if Chan hadn’t felt the need to bring as many elements from the book or just focused on a few less plot and dramatic elements, that could have made the film an even more enjoyable experience.
The Four is most certainly not a bad film and leaves enough for one wanting more. The first out of a proposed trilogy, that is currently shooting its second installment, The Four could become a solid franchise, building out of the successful fantasy elements of Wu Xia, with the stylings of western comic book. If you only care for the action or visual stylings of kung fu films and the superhero genre, you might finding yourself loving this installment and maybe wanting more.