After the success of Once Upon A Time In China, it was time for Jet Li to set aside his serious face for a bit and try something a tad lighter.
The Wong Fei-hung films are great, don't get me wrong, but the tone throughout these movies is all-over-the-place, so much so that whenever it does attempt to lighten things up a bit that tends to come off as a bit distracting. The Legend does have its weird tone-shifts but they work well as a whole. Jet Li's Fong Sai-Yuk is much less of a flawless superhero than Fei-hung, he's a mischievous kid who happens to be good at martial arts due to his mother being a true badass.
Yes, his mother.
It's not everyday that a film's hero is upstaged by his mommy but Josephine Siao is so good she actually steals the show rather effortlessly. At first it's all a bit dodgy with her and her son having to take a beating from Kong Chu's father in order to keep his reputation as the strong head of the family intact but later it's up to them to save his ass so the characters do evolve quite a bit throughout. In the end you do feel like they've really come together as a family. Siao is given a lot of butt-kicking to do, a gender-bending subplot and loads of goofy personality traits which make her a lot of fun. Watch her grimacing in order to look unrecognizable to the film's villain, it's quite a sight to say the least.
As for Li, he's clearly having fun here and it's great to see him in a more playful role. A whole fight sequence has him fighting on top of people's heads, you certainly don't see that everyday. He even manages to include a wink to Wong Fei-hung at some point, it's an obvious one but Li fans will appreciate it nonetheless. The rest of the cast is also fab and the film does really well to handle both the comedy and the dramatic aspects of the story.
All around, it's admittedly a lighter effort but a completely enjoyable one. If Once Upon A Time In China is too political for you then The Legend should strike the right note: it's a great martial arts flick and a fun comedy. Make sure you watch it subtitled by the way, the US dubbing is a bit off.
Give it a go.