YMMV / Once Upon a Time in China

  • Awesome Music: "To Be A Hero", the heart-stirring theme song of the franchise, based on the traditional Chinese Ballad Jiang Jun Ling (General's Orders). A hot-blooded song that tells you to "shine brighter than the sun!" It is also known as "男兒當自強" - A Man Should Strengthen Himself, and is often sung in Cantonese. Be careful - it's a potent Ear Worm.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Jackson, an American dignitary in the first film, is a corrupt sociopath who runs a side business selling the Chinese as slaves, especially selling attractive women as prostitutes. Using the Shaho Gang as his personal army of thugs, Jackson orders an attack on the province's governor and hero Wong Fei-Hung at an opera, having his men fire into the crowd of civilians. When confronted by Fei-Hung at the end, Jackson attempts to use the Governor as a hostage while trying to kill Fei-Hung and his friends.
    • Jackson's corrupt partner, the unnamed leader of the Shaho Gang, participates in the massacre at the opera house and abducts innocents to be sold in Jackson's slave trade. Terrorizing the province and murdering at will, the Shaho Leader also kidnaps Wong Fei-Hung's Love Interest, Aunt 13, and makes clear his intention to rape her. When she fights back, he attempts to drag her to a boiler to burn her face off.
    • Once Upon a Time in China II: High Priest Kau-Kung, master of the White Lotus sect, leads a crusade against anything even vaguely Western. Having his followers burn every Western item they can find, Kau-Kung even has Western dogs burnt alive before sending his men into the streets to attack and murder those with Western items, technology or clothing. Kau-Kung has his followers attack multiple institutions, including a school for children to learn foreign languages, with Fei-Hung barely saving the lives of the children. He then has the foreign embassies besieged, intending to have every Westerner within massacred along with any Chinese citizen seen as a "collaborator."
  • First Installment Wins: A mild subversion in that both the first and second films in the series are loved and highly praised. It's every film after the first two that receive more and more criticisms and accusations of Sequelitis.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Marvelous as Donnie Yen's performance as Anti-Villain General Narlan Yuenshu was in Once Upon A Time In China 2 (in which he actually won the Best Supporting Actor Trophy of the Hong Kong Oscars in 1993), nobody expected him to rise to the success of portraying Wing-Chun master Ip Man almost 15 years later.....
  • Unconventional Learning Experience: Even if the series runs on Rule of Cool and Artistic License History, it still neatly covers the final years of Imperial China. Never heard about unequal treaties? Or maybe the fact that China was ruled by Manchurians? Or how Western powers tried to slice pieces of China for themselves? Then please, take a seat.