Actor Philip Ng is currently bound for what's sure to be a breakout role as the legendary marital artist and film star, Bruce Lee in director George Nolfi's new film, Birth Of The Dragon. In the meantime, Ng has definitely left an impression on fans of the martial arts genre with a career in which he's worn several hats, including the stunt department. It's a career that otherwise lined-up a very opportune moment for Ng in the role of the classic Chinese hero, Ma Yongzhen in director Wong Ching-Po's 2014 film, Once Upon A Time In Shanghai.
Meanwhile, Ma and his cohorts struggle to find work whilst keeping his promise to restrain his deadly fighting prowess, a promise symbolized by the mother's jade bracelet on his right fist. However, as Ma decides to use his newfound friendship with Long to help provide jobs for his friends and even impress a girl in their slum named Tie Ju, played by Michelle Hu, her father, Master Tie, played by action legend Sammo Hung, warns him of what could happen if he gets involved with Long Qi. Nonetheless, it's already too late as the Axe fraternity gang leaders take initiative in collusion with the Japanese, raiding Ma's slum and its villagers and seizing Long Qi's club. With Ma left as one of the only few standing, he wages a one-man war against the Axe-gang and its leaders.
Hung and actress and martial artist Jiang Luxia manage to get some screentime of their own albeit more vicariously than preferred and with specific regard for the latter, and I blame Wong Jing's script for that one. Michelle Hu offers plenty in support of Ng's character as their relationship slowly grows and develops from silly angst to something slightly substantive and mature by the end when all the blood is spilled.