Wu Dang movie review: Fight like a girl (and win)

Dec 4, 2012 at 9:37 a.m. ET

Set atop the beautiful Chinese mountains, this tale about a teen girl skilled at martial arts plays out with magical swords, secret scrolls, and the living spirit of Wu Dang mountain, creating a paranormal experience that’s a kickin’ good time.

Wu Dang

3 stars: Perfect for teen girls looking for bad-a** role models

Set in the 1920s, Tang Ning (Josie Xu) a teenage girl with a dark secret, sets out with her father, Professor Tang Yunlong (Vincent Zhao) to compete in a martial arts competition. Young Tang Ning is a great fighter, but winning the championship will be the biggest challenge of her life, given that she's plagued by a rare genetic disorder.

On their way to Wu Dang mountain, father and daughter stop off to help an acquaintance Paul Chen (Shaun Tam) identify an ancient sword that, according to legend, is made from meteoric stone and has magical powers.

Wu Dang

Professor Ning determines the sword is a fake, but finds a treasure map in the sword’s case. After stealing the treasure map, the professor barely escapes with his life.

Once at the Daoist monastery so high in the mountains, which looks like another world, the competition begins. Tang Ning’s fabulous moves are a mix of kung fu, tai chi, and break dancing. Her spin-kick is so dynamic, she bruises much more than men's egos.

There is another woman in the competition, however, who may be Tang Ning’s match. Her name is Tian Xin (Mini Yang) who is not only stunningly gorgeous, but also happens to be a member of the clan who owned the magical sword years ago.

Instead of fighting Tang Ning, Tian Xin decides to team up with Tang Ning’s dad and search the mountain for its many fabled treasures. Turns out, she’s not the only one with a treasure map.

wu dang

The fighting style in this film is uniquely Chinese for its expression of so much more than anger or competition. Like dance, the fight choreography expresses romance and love as well as respect and hierarchy.

Shot high up in the mountains of central Asia, the ancient sites seem otherworldly as the clouds sit like gods amongst the monasteries, watching the fighters.

While Tang Ning does get embroiled in a romance, the true love story here is between father and daughter. Once dad finds the magic sword, he’ll do anything to save his daughter.

Bottom line: This movie is filled with fun martial arts, strong female characters, and great scenery. If martial arts is your thing, you'll love this movie.

Wu Dang is out on Blu-ray and DVD today.

Photo credit: Well Go USA, Inc.