China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power by warring over neighboring lands. Fuelled by his success on the battlefield, young and arrogant Hao Jie sneers at... See full summary »
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China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power by warring over neighboring lands. Fuelled by his success on the battlefield, young and arrogant Hao Jie sneers at Shaolin's masters after killing a rival warlord on their temple grounds. But the glory comes before a fall. His own family is wiped out in an unexpected turn of events and Hao is forced to take refuge with the monks. As the civil unrest spreads and the people suffer, Hao and the Shaolin masters are forced to take a fiery stand against the evil warlords. They launch a daring plan of rescue and escape. Written by
I admire the effort and thought that's gone into the making of this movie. The producers obviously wanted something set at the much-revisited and revered Shaolin Temple, but in the meantime had to work in a storyline that's a bit different to the usual "novice monk training" style stuff. What we get is the tale of a very bad man (a glacial Andy Lau) who undergoes something of a crisis of conscience before being reborn as a pacifist fighter. Yeah, the motivations don't make a whole lot of sense, but in the end this is an action flick and it's absolutely packed with battles and that's what counts.
Director Benny Chan is an old hand at this sort of stuff, of course, although he's more familiar with contemporary fight flicks (INVISIBLE TARGET etc.). Still, he acquits himself well with the historical backdrop, throwing in elaborate chase scenes, some genuinely impressive and explosive set-pieces, and of course all manner of hand-to-hand combat. The entire film builds up to one massive, sprawling set-piece at the climax which mixes large-scale combat with fights on an individual basis, and it really works. The special effects are exemplary.
The story I'm less enamoured with. Lau seems slightly disinterested in the material, and I never felt much sympathy for his character's plight. The non-violence message is a bit preachy and faintly ridiculous when played out over two guys beating the hell out of each other. Nicholas Tse feels a bit uncomfortable in a role that's a far cry from the usual fresh-faced hero types he usually plays, and Jackie Chan doesn't get much of a look in at all. Nonetheless, action fans will be in their element, and I just wish I'd been able to catch myself up in the storyline a little better so that I actually cared about the characters involved.
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