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ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan (1991, Columbia TriStar, 134 mins., R, also on DVD) For you martial-arts-flick newbies out there who were completely entranced by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and are looking for something with a similar kick, try this period drama. As the legendary Chinese hero Wong Fei Hung (the same character Jackie Chan played — for laughs — in The Legend of Drunken Master), the incomparable Jet Li tackles such high-minded issues as cultural imperialism and gun control, all while demonstrating his mastery of high-wire kung fu. Even though this film does seem a bit claustrophobic (thanks to the cropping of director Tsui Hark’s sweeping wide-screen camera, which is most evident during the opening titles), and it doesn’t resonate with the sheer transcendence of Ang Lee’s mystical Oscar contender, Once Upon a Time in China is still a thrilling example of what results when muscle meets grace. A-