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|Index||34 reviews in total|
I almost skipped this flick when I saw the low 6.8 rating on IMDb. And
to be honest, that would've been really unfortunate! Remember the kind
of movies that leave something behind in your hearts long after they've
finished running? Well, this is most certainly one of those. The
background score and soundtrack will linger in your head, I guarantee
you that. But most importantly, just when you THINK you've figured it
all out and stamped it 'just another Kung Fu flick'; all ready to be
discarded and disregarded, wait for the kicker...!
A simple yet significant moral, getting to know the Buddhist way, beautiful locations, and commendable direction to top it off; This movie truly had the potential to be an epic. Almost...!
I thought I'd go with an 8 at first...but finally decided on a full 10; forgiving its small flaws to make way for the bigger message this movie delivers..!
The 1982 gongfu classic "Shaolin" introduced Jet Li to the world, but
there is no breakout star to be found here in Benny Chan's take on the
famed birthplace of Shaolin martial arts. No matter really- though
Heavenly King Andy Lau may not have the moves or the agility to match
Jet Li, his leading man performance here is no less terrific. Indeed,
what Andy lacks in the physical department, he more than amply makes up
for with his dramatic chops, delivering a deeply moving performance as
the arrogant and scheming warlord Hou Jie who undergoes a 180-degree
transformation under the tutelage of the Shaolin monks.
This transformation is at the heart of Benny Chan's film, which differentiates itself splendidly from the recent crop of period epics with a generous infusion of Buddhist teachings. These nuggets of wisdom elevate "Shaolin" into a surprisingly thoughtful film, meditating on the fruitlessness of anger, violence and hatred, and preaching ever persuasiveness the merits of peace, compassion and love. Non-believers however need not fear- Benny's sure hand never lets the film become sanctimonious, instead emphasising the universal truths of these teachings and demonstrating their truism through a heartfelt yarn.
Written by no less than four writers, the story is a gripping one of repentance and renewal set amidst a time when China was torn apart by internal strife and threatened by foreign powers. General Hou Jie was one such local warlord, his hunger for power matched by that of his second-in-command, the equally scheming Cao Man (Nicholas Tse). A compelling opening sequence introduces Hou Jie and Cao Man as the despotic men they are (at least at the start), chasing an enemy right into the compounds of the Shaolin temple and paying no heed to the abbot's words to let him save the dying man.
Hou's victory though is short-lived, as an ambush on his sworn brother whom he suspects of ill intentions goes awry. The orchestrator is none other than Cao Man, whose own tyrannical ambitions Hou had fomented over the years. In a reversal of fate, the film plants Hou at the doorstep of the Shaolin temple, seeking the monks' help to rescue his badly wounded young daughter. There is an obvious play on the Buddhist concept of karma here- but rather than dwell too much on these implications, Benny shrewdly grounds this turn of events in keenly-felt poignancy, underscoring their importance as a defining moment in Hou Jie's subsequent metamorphosis.
Whereas lesser directors may have been tempted to skim through Hou Jie's redemptive journey, Benny exhibits an assuredness in allowing the movie to settle down to a more measured pace before its action-packed, explosive (literally) finale. He also brings on Jackie Chan in an amusing role as the resident Shaolin cook Wu Dao, a laid-back fellow perfectly content with his circumstance. It is not unlike the one Jackie played in "Little Big Soldier" two years ago, but it's always enjoyable to see the veteran gongfu actor back on screen, especially in a particularly entertaining sequence where he uses his cooking skills to good measure against Cao Man's soldiers.
Other notable supporting roles include Wu Jing as the senior Shaolin monk Qing Neng and Hou's mentor, as well as Xiong Xin Xin (best known as Ghost Feet Seven in the Wong Fei Hung series) as Cao Man's evil henchman Jiang Yuan. Unfortunately, the script doesn't quite do justice to the actors playing these supporting roles- Xiong's character and Fan Bingbing's one as Hou Jie's wife Yan Xi are sorely underwritten and a waste of their considerable talent. If there is one consolation, it must be that Benny has given Andy ample screen time to flesh out the complexities of his character.
And what a job Andy does, equally effective as the egotistical warlord on the pursuit of riches and power and as the reformed monk who realises the folly of his past ways. There's never been a doubt that Andy possessed screen charisma, but here he rewards Benny's attention to his character with a richly nuanced and textured portrayal of a man struggling to overcome his angry and violent tendencies to become a better person. Just as impressive is his gongfu, though no match for Jet Li's naturally but still admirable nonetheless- especially when he duels with Nicholas with a long wooden pole.
Thanks to some nifty action direction by Corey Yuen and choreography by veteran stunt people Yuen Tak and Lee Chung Chi, the action sequences do not disappoint. But ultimately, the strength of Benny Chan's "Shaolin" lies in how surprisingly intellectual and deeply moving it is- intellectual in its Buddhist leanings of the vicious cycle war, hatred and greed perpetrates; and moving in its portrayal of one man's redemptive journey to free himself from his sinful past. It is a blockbuster in every sense, from spectacle, to emotion, and most of all spirit.
For some reason I passed on watching this a few times. Very glad I chose it to watch tonight. I think the story and message is so amazingly well portrayed as well as the choreography and quality of movie making extremely tasteful and well done. If you've seen Ip Man, or Fist of Legend, or any movie on those levels, and have any appreciation of this genre of martial arts movies...I completely and whole heatedly suggest watching this movie. I was going to suggest to see the trailer, but I think it is best to watch without seeing the trailer. The production and direction of story telling, acting, and showmanship is top notch and I believe anybody can become a better person after seeing this movie.
If you are not familiar with Chinese cinema then "Shaolin" could be a
good movie to start out with as an introduction to the wonderful world
of Chinese cinema. It has lot of action, a phenomenal assembly of
acting talents, a good story and nicely choreographed martial arts.
I have been putting off watching "Shaolin" for a long, long time after I had purchased this movie from Amazon. A thing that turned out to be a mistake on my behalf, because this really is a good movie. And of course it would be very unlikely not to be good with Andy Lau in the leading part.
I bought this movie for two reasons; the first reason was, of course, Andy Lau, and the second reason being that this is a Chinese martial arts drama.
"Shaolin" also has a small role for martial arts legend Jackie Chan, and even in a supporting small role he shines, and really did add his usual charms and charisma to the movie.
I enjoyed "Shaolin" quite a lot and was genuinely surprised at captivating the story was and how good director Benny Chan is at telling a story to the audience.
If you enjoy Asian cinema then you most definitely should take the time to watch "Shaolin". And for a historical drama, then "Shaolin" is a movie that is more than deserving a place in the movie Collection of any fan of the genre.
Shaolin is an action packed, dramatic epic in the same vein as the Tom Cruise vehicle The Last Samurai. It also takes place on around the same time period, but in a time of turmoil in China where warlords fought over the land much at the expense of the masses. Warlords, which Andy Lau also appears in is great as well and I highly recommend that movie also. Anyhow, Andy Lau gives an outstanding performance here as Hou Jie. Hou Jie is a ruthless warlord general. His unscrupulous actions catch up with him that result in him taking refuge in a Shaolin temple he once disrespected. His second in command (played by Nicholas Tse) picks up where Hou Jie left off, exceeding his predecessor in immorality and cruelty. The legendary Jackie Chan appears as a lighthearted support role as cook for the Shaolin monks. This tale of redemption is a very well crafted film by HK veteran director Benny Chan. The film looks beautiful and is very well performed, shot and directed. Jet Li's preferred fight choreographer Corey Yuen set up the action, which of course is awesome and there are large helpings of it as well. Shaolin should please most action fans and has the potential to win over viewers who normally stay away from this sort of stuff, as this is very well made and an excellent dramatic film in its own right.
Chinese compounded traditional martial arts is a fantastic and rather
historic form of fighting, more commonly known as Wushu. This is a
quite phenomenal mix of literally hundreds of forms and functional
techniques in self defense. It of course is exceptionally popular in
Asian cinema, and there is always that real sense of watching something
unbelievably beautiful that has been passed down from generation to
'Shaolin' brings much of the same fighting styles from previous martial arts films of the last decade. It's hard to compare it to anything I have seen in recent years. I found the movie to be quite enjoyable, if a rather typical ride for most fans of Chinese Cinema. There is the typical overuse of wired stunts, which gives that somewhat graceful 'float' effect on their jumps and movements. When it's just left to the choreography of Jackie Chan and Andy Lao it is actually quite breathtaking to watch the seemingly effortless way they move their bodies in a whirlwind of fists and kicks.
The story line is a rather serious topic for most films that come out of most successful communist country in the world. Most movies that come out of this part of the world are written, and re-written as to represent history in such a way that the government would approve of. This usually leads into a lot of fictionalization, just like any Hollywood drama. For example they leave out a lot of the history related to how many Shaolin Temples were destroyed over and over again in China's history, from the 16th century to even more modern times when rural warlords/generals set fire to monasteries throughout the country. The religious persecution during the communist cultural revolution still affects what can and cannot be shown in Chinese cinema, especially with religious themed films.
Anyways, it is a beautiful movie to watch, some excellent dramatic moments through the whole thing, and very well acted. Most definitely one of my favorite movies out of China in the last decade.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first hour of this movie is great and brings out a solid emotional
story mixed with kung-fu. But the second half it starts to become
pretty darn ridiculous with poor development. And loses the emotional
value it started out with. The story is basically about a warlord Hao
Jie(Andy Lau) that starts off as a man that angry full with ambitions
of power and wealth but also lacks compassion. And don't blink an eye
even when taking lives. And his right hand man is Cao Man(Nicholas
Tse). Hao Jie chooses his ambition and tries to wipe out his own sworn
brother in war. And Cao Man uses it as an opportunity to overthrow Hao
Jie. And Hao Jie becomes a wanted man and ends up in a shaolin temple.
And Hao Jie starts to learn the ways of the shaolin temple. Hao Jie
also meets one of the head monk by the name of Jing Neng played by
jacky wu who looks like the Korean actor Chun Jung-Myung a lot. Andy
Lau did a good job of playing the cold character and also a sympathetic
one. Nicholas Tse tries to pull off that drunk don't give a crap
looking like high all the time type of villain. But he doesn't quite
seem to pull it off like how Lee Byung-hun is able to pull off. The
problem is with this movie is that there just isn't enough development
where it's needed. Hao Jie makes a 180 degree change way too
drastically and some of the characters you don't get attached to at
all. Although they take up some screen time. This is mainly do to a lot
of the deleted scenes that is added on to extras for the DVD. In fact I
think some deleted scenes should have been added onto the movie. Cause
some parts has some character development so it adds to the value of
those characters. So when they die it actually leaves a bit of an
impact. But that isn't the case for this movie, I honestly didn't care
who lives or who dies just which side wins as the end. I usually always
like Jackie Chan in movies but his over the top kung-fu takes away from
this movie. Since this is a serious kung-fu flick and not a fantasy
one. If this carried the flare it had for the first half with the
second half it would have been a great film but as it is. It's a pretty
China is being torn apart by feuding warlords and foreign powers. Hao
Jie (Andy Lau) is a ruthless commander who kills all his rivals. He
rejects foreign offers to built a railroad. His treacherous ways
rebound on him when his underling Cao Man (Nicholas Tse) revolts with
the help of the foreign power. Hao Jie loses everything including his
precious daughter, and seeks help from Shaolin masters. He regains his
humanity with their help including cooking monk Wudao (Jackie Chan).
I like the solid first half. It is poetic, dramatic, and compelling. However the movie couldn't resist its kung fu movie genes, and it devolves into a lot of unreal fighting. The fighting is more ridiculous since the troops with guns keep getting kicked around by monks with their sticks. It's still a good movie. The action looks good. However the message loses a bit.
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.
There's nothing better than a film with an uplifting moral message
bought to you interspersed with lots of martial arts action and blowing
stuff up. I can therefore heartily recommend this film.
Whilst being a good watch there is also some good old-fashioned silly translations to add to the enjoyment. "Don't mess with the Shaolin Temple" is one fine example and another is "You bastards come and attack the temple, I'll send you to the Netherworld." (I don't know if you get this with the English soundtrack as I was watching the subtitled version.)
There's a solid storyline and the usual stuff about the baddie finding redemption and making good his evil ways but it's not as 2-dimensional as these plots often are as you see the effect on Andy Lau's wife and daughter in no uncertain terms. The martial arts action is good though not outstanding. Jackie Chan has a supporting role but when he does eventually get an action scene it is laugh out loud funny and absolutely true to the character he plays in the film.
It's not the world's best film but it would be hard to go wrong with this if you want to watch an entertaining epic with lots of action. I'm intrigued to know how much of the battles scenes and destruction of buildings was CGI and how much miniatures. I suspect it was a mixture. I'll have to listen to the DVD commentary to find out
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