Sakra Review: Donnie Yen’s Latest Wuxia Martial Arts Gets the Job Done

Martial arts movies have been Job Done a global staple since the ’70s, especially in the United States. But there is a specific type of film that has captivated audiences in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan since the release of films like Zhang Yimou’s. Hero and Ang Lee’s Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger. Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen has been one of the many familiar faces in these genres, as he first became known for starring in the series Ip Man. Now, in 2023, he has returned to the wuxia genre with a new epic: sakra. Yen not only stars in the film but was also the director and producer.

Usually based on novels in the same genre, wuxia movies are a joy to watch on the big screen. The origins of this film are also found in a novel by one of the greatest wuxia writers of his generation: Jin Yong. Originally released in China during Lunar New Year 2023 and in the West later, sakra stars Yen, Chen Yuqi, and Cya Liu in the lead roles, though the focus is usually on Yen’s character Qiao Feng.


In Hong Kong, this story has been adapted many times, but Sakra hopes to bring to life a beloved novel and author’s work. For two hours, Yen’s Qiao Feng not only engages in a large number of fistfights and finds a romantic interest, but also goes on an inner spiritual journey through everything going on in the background.

A story of redemption and soul searching

Set in the distant past, true to the wuxia genre, sakra It comes from a tragedy. The main character is Qiao Feng, who, as a child, was orphaned due to violence. He was born into a tribe called the Khitan, which was historically a group of nomadic people who inhabited northern China. However, Qiao Feng is adopted by a couple living with the Song Dynasty and the Empire, leading to problems as he ages. As a mature adult, he finds himself in a difficult situation after becoming the head of the Beggars’ Gang, a well-known martial arts organization in the wuxia genre, as he appears in many different movies in different ways.

One day, Qiao Feng is accused by his colleagues of the murder of one of his underbosses. He is immediately suspected simply because he is a stranger. As someone not born into the Song dynasty and by the nation’s enemies of his, the Khitan-led Liao Empire, this puts Qiao Feng in a precarious situation from the start. When he returns to his adoptive parents’ home, he is devastated to find them lying in pools of blood. Found by other members of the beggar gang, he is forced to go on the run with a new reputation for being a traitor and being low enough to kill the people who gave him everything. Along the way, he allies with Azhu, a servant girl who was sent to rob the beggar gang and take their secrets. When Azhu is injured in the process, Qiao Feng shows mercy towards her and is willing to sacrifice himself for her in order to get the medical attention he desperately needs. However, the two are separated in the process, forcing Qiao Feng to embark on a new journey to not only find himself but also save the day and avenge his parents and his past in the best possible way.

sakra directly correlates to the wuxia series Demigodsand Demigods, which was first published in 1963 in a Hong Kong newspaper. In the original narration, the stories of three different protagonists are divided into many different chapters and editions, and Qiao Feng is one of the main characters in the second story. Some may sigh for film adaptations of novels and say that they are not as good as the novel, but when it comes to the plot, Sakra largely stays true to the original story written by author Jin Yong.Elements of Classical Wuxia

Sakra, there are very clear elements of the foundation of most of the epic journeys of literature and cinema: the hero’s journey. From the beginning, Qiao Feng’s character is established as an outsider, someone different from others within the society he was forcibly taken into. When the time comes and something peculiar happens, those who lived happily with him and accepted Qiao Feng as his leader are quick to point a finger at him and blame him for his new misfortune. But when he was able to hit rock bottom by being exiled from the tribe, he finds a new anchor in the character of Azhu.

In some ways, this works well within the genre and the constraints that the film takes place in. Qiao Feng’s motivation and intent are extremely cloudy early in the film, making her character’s prospects uncertain as to where exactly the plot is going. Within wuxia tropes, martial arts are generally used for the hero to go on a justifiable journey, which is usually against someone or something highly corrupted. Jin Yong, the author of the text on which the film is based, was known as one of the greatest wuxia writers of his generation, making him one of the greatest sources of inspiration for those looking to dabble in wuxia. gender.

However, there is a big problem when it comes to sakra: As we go on this epic journey with Qiao Feng and seek redemption for everything that happened to him, there are no emotional stakes for the viewer to root for him through the process. The action scenes in which he takes on a ton of men twice his size in battle are entertaining, but at the end, comes the classic storytelling element that always leads to this question: “So what?” One might wonder what exactly they should take away from this movie, especially since Qiao Feng is not only distant from those he faces on screen but also from the audience.

By its end, sakra seems to be going through the motions of what’s expected of him, following the script paved from the source material. His relationship with Azhu also seems forced and necessary for the plot to move forward, because without something happening to her, he could be wandering the Chinese plains on his horse forever. without the action, and sakra it would just get repetitive and pointless, asking for too much investment from your viewers to keep it going.

Related: Donnie Yen Says Quentin Tarantino Mocked Bruce Lee In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A film for dedicated fans

There are many martial arts scenes in
Sakra to keep the action elements woven throughout the plot, but to those unfamiliar with the genre, the film can feel disjointed. Suddenly, the action scenes involve the manipulation of elements, especially fire, and water, and there is no explanation as to why this occurs. Yet it is how perfectly Sakra it mixes these elements without explanation that makes the film work within the genre. All the indicative characteristics of wuxia can be detected almost immediately: the hero guided by his sense of morality and justice, the path of becoming an exile, those who exist outside the mainstream, and the ruling forces of power.

sakra may not be for everyone; only those who are dedicated fans of the wuxia genre could get the full scope of the film’s nuanced scenes and references. Where the film falls short is within its philosophical ramblings and dialogue; sometimes he just tries too hard to make certain points. As viewers, we can easily understand the themes and unravel the inner turmoil the characters may be going through and how one is going to get out of a sticky situation, but instead, the audience is fed.

With that comes an excess of scenes and dialogue, making the movie longer than necessary. Donnie Yen shines as the lead despite it all, taking the action and drama in stride and delivering a solid performance that adds to his wuxia and martial arts filmography. With its big stages, big fights where groups of people face only Qiao Feng and come up with costume design, sakra it may limp towards the finish line at the end, but it largely remains true to wuxia and its specific conventions. You may not buy new fans for these types of movies, but dedicated fans may be satisfied with Sakra.

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