Based on Louis “Jin Yong” Cha’s serialized novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, Sakra is directed by Ka-Wai Kam and Donnie Yen, the latter of which is also the film’s leading man, Qiao Fung. An adaptation of a decades-spanning work, the writing team includes He Ben, Chen Li, Sheng Lingzhi, Lejing Shen, Xu Yifan, and Wei Zhu.
Qiao Feng is an orphan sent to be raised by a couple from the Song Empire who is at war with the Khitan-led Liao Empire, his heritage. Growing to become a powerful leader of the Beggar’s Sect, Qiao Feng leads his roving band of martial artists. But when he is wrongfully accused of murder and subsequently exiled, Qiao Feng goes on the run in search of answers about his past, and the power he’s connected to all while trying to stave off unknown enemies working to destroy him from the shadows.
As Qiao Feng fights to clear his name and loses his followers in the Beggar’s Sect, he befriends Azhu (Chen Yuqi), a servant of Murong Fu (Wu Yue)—and eventually connects beyond friendship. But that connection comes as their pasts and absent parent’s histories unravel a lineage that puts the would-be OTP at odds with each other thanks to their clans. Stuck between two lineages, the Nothern Song Dynasty and the Beggar’s Sect, he comes to see as a family or the invading Khitan, who support the Liao dynasty.
The road to finding answers is lined is stellar action sequences that embody magic, mystery, and the fantastical in a way only a wuxia story can. If you’re unfamiliar wuxia stories carry magic and stakes that use Chinese historical periods to tell grand fantasies, now often represented and adapted into manhua and donghua. Going into Sakra knowing that it’s going to carry all of those things helps set the stage, and yet, you’ll find more and more. Political intrigue, backstabbing enemies, grand magical connections, and all of it comes together perfectly. Sakra’s action is loud, large, and used to hold the film’s narrative together.
Instead of being used as breaks between storytelling, the film accents its drama and stakes with wire-work staged and executed for the gods. While the story meanders in moments and gets too big too fast before grounding itself in the third act, the action sequences can hold it all together, pulling the audience through the film. Every time the story started to lose its way with a new twist of fate or turn of character, an action sequence would reset the pacing and give a tangible expression of the emotional moments not entirely captured in the script. Action is a vehicle for telling a story; when done right, it can enhance a film, and that’s what Sakra does.
But the strength of the film comes from its ability to drive the story with not just action sequences but eccentric sequences that embody magic and wonder. The surreal take on action features strong moments of effects work that when paired with the actors’ skill, shine. While practical action is fun to explore, a surreal look at fantasy action is even better and is ultimately the beauty of wuxia films. Add in Donnie Yen’s charisma and ability to command the screen through humor, hard moral stances, and a physicality that has made him a legend and Qiao Feng is a stunning anchor in a winding story.
Ultimately, Sakra is a great wuxia film that delivers endless action to sink your teeth into. With a winding story that doesn’t always hold together, the plot holes and meandering moments fade away once the action gets takes focus. Thankfully, if you come to Sakra for its wuxia action, you’ll be happy. With stunning costumes, a fantastic score, and stellar action direction, Sakra may be too unwieldy of a story, but it’s well worth a watch for anyone with a love for wuxia.
Sakra is available now on VOD.
Ultimately, Sakra is a great wuxia film that delivers endless action to sink your teeth into. With a winding story that doesn’t always hold together, the plot holes and meandering moments fade away once the action gets takes focus. Thankfully, if you come to Sakra for its wuxia action, you’ll be happy.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.