Directed by and starring the incomparable Donnie Yen, Sakra is obviously a labor of love. Whether that love is for the material or himself might be debated, since there are times where this wuxia action-fantasy film feels somewhat like a vanity project. He’s in nearly every scene, looking, acting and moving cooler than everybody else on the screen.
But since Yen is one of the coolest guys in action movies these days, we can afford him a little self-indulgence. Having directed action scenes for many of his previous Hong Kong films, he certainly knows how to put together spectacular sequences, which are easily the best part of Sakra. Aided by wire work and (sometimes wonky) CGI, there is some pretty incredible close-quarters fight choreography on display as his character, Qiao Feng, single-handedly takes on scores of bad guys…sometimes dozens at once.
The story itself has the Song and Khitan empires in a constant state of war. Though born a Khitan, Qiao's parents leave him with a Song family as an infant. He grows up to be the beloved leader of the Beggers’ Sect, a group of martial artists who defend the Song empire and fight injustice. When Qiao is framed for the murder of a deputy chief - as well as the family who raised him - he is ostracized as a Khitan and later condemned to die. But he manages to escape, at the same time rescuing Azhu (Chen Yuqi), who was injured trying to steal the Beggers’ Sect’s Yijin Jing, a valuable martial arts manual.
|"Has anyone fed the cat today?"|
When focusing on the bloody action scenes, Sakra is a real kick in the ass, with Yen doing most of the kicking. And as usual, he’s a joy to watch. Sure, his moves are enhanced by more movie trickery than usual - due to the story’s fantasy elements - but he’s still an incredible physical performer. Narratively, the film is occasionally meandering, with a superfluous romantic subplot and some scenes of exposition that drag on a little longer than necessary.
But overall, Sakra is sweeping, action-filled entertainment with Donnie Yen as its formidable and charismatic centerpiece. Vanity project or not, I'd say he's earned the right to call all the shots in his own favor, which he does pretty well here. Fans of epic martial arts mayhem should have no complaints.
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