On the proverbial Mount Rushmore of cinematic martial artists, Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung are gimmes. The debate follows them: Bruce Lee, Tony Jaa, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Iko Uwais, Scott Adkins, Cheng Pei-pei, Stephen Chow, and, of course, Donnie Yen. No matter how you filter and juggle the final two names, you can’t go wrong. That is, unless you leave Yen off—then you’re just plain wrong. The man of quiet dignity is one of the all-time greats at what he does best (read: beating the shit out of people) and Sakra, while not his finest vehicle, certainly shows why he’s one of the best to ever do it.
Based on the classic wuxia novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils by Jin Yong, Donnie Yen’s latest film, released under the seriously less cool title Sakra, asks a question you never knew you wanted to see played out: what if Donnie Yen was an air bender? Sakra starts from a familiar plot in these stories: our protagonist is poor and prefers the simple life, and is a stern defender of the good. “I am not a hero, I am just an ordinary person who sticks to the right path,” Yen’s Qiao Feng confesses in a line that starts the trailer. This “right path” is specifically Buddhist. One opponent threatens, “Until hell is empty, you will not become a Buddha.”
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