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|Index||34 reviews in total|
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
In 1982, The Shaolin Temple puts Jet Li into the spotlight as a young
man highly skilled in martial arts, which path-ed his acting career
into the fame he has today.
Around 29 years later, director Benny Chan comes with a new adaptation of the classic, which shares a similar story with a new cast. Here, we have Andy Lau, Li's co-star in The Warlords (2007) taking the leading role of Hou Chieh, a ruthless warlord who crosses path with Shaolin Temple and sees transformation of himself from a ruthless warlord to a monk with compassion. Together with Nicholas Tse and Jackie Chan in a special appearance, Shaolin marks the first Chinese blockbuster to hit the screens of Asia in 2011.
The story is set in China after the fall of Qing Dynasty with various warlords fighting over the territories. Hou Chieh, a ruthless warlord who bear grudges with Shaolin Temple and sets to get rid of the people around him for his own benefits, was betrayed by his right-hand man, Tsao Man (Tse). It not only leads to the death of his daughter, but also makes his wife (Fan Bing Bing) decided to leave him for good. After being taken refuge by the cook (Chan), the cook enlightens him and Hou decided to become a monk in Shaolin, leaving down the past behind him and start a new life. Though disciples in Shaolin bears grudges with Hou in the past, they accepted Hou. Eventually, we will see how Hou and the disciples defend Shaolin from the invasion of Tsao's army and the Western powers.
The plot sounds no novelty in it, where we can see how the protagonist repents from his sin to the mistake made in the past, to how they will defend in what they believe in. Here, we have seen how the Buddhist teachings have been integrated into the plot. In relating to the Buddhist teaching on the term 'you reap what you sow' with cause and effect, Hou saw the fall of his power and death of loved ones by betrayal, which he gets it from his belief of the dog eat dog world.
Another perspective of Buddhism that can be seen in Shaolin is 'evil begins with the greed and obsession for power'. This is shown by the portrayal of the sufferings from the civilians during the civil war, with warlords fighting for power and wealth. The perspective has become the main theme of the movie, where not only we have seen how Tsao wanted to control the territory, but also the Western powers who aims to take over China using gun power. This has somehow reflect on what has happened in today's society, on how stronger bodies are getting rid the culture, values and history using destructive powers.
Lau's role of Hou Chieh is different from Li's leading role in Shaolin Temple, in terms of characters and the incidents they have been through. Both shared similarities in their fate and enlightenment, to how they find a way to save the majority of the people around them. Chan's cameo appearances as the cook provides some comic relief for the audience after having a long intense and pressure from Tse's evil character. The comic relief did not last very long, since the fate of Shaolin Temple is the main concern of the film.
Overall, Shaolin makes a very good start for Hong Kong's film industry in the beginning of 2011, where it not only shows how Hong Kong film industry are making a turn from various disappointments in 2010, but also pins hope for better productions in the coming months.
The Shaolin movie I know, was one in the 80s that launched the film
career of Li Lianjie, who somewhat faded away until his portrayal of
Wong Fei Hong in Once Upon a Time in China that launched him to
superstardom. Superstars aren't lacking in this update of Shaolin
Temple which promises spectacular action sequences, but what's
surprisingly excellent here isn't the action, but the spirit of
Buddhism and themes that come along with it.
It isn't a remake per se of the old Shaolin Temple movie given a fresh set of characters and a premise that's remotely similar, set after the fall of the Qing dynasty with warlords battling it out for supremacy and territory in China. In what I thought was quite a stark message in warning of any future infighting amongst the Chinese if they do not stand united, that foreign powers are more than willing to wait for an opportunity to exploit. Economic advantages offered should also be scrutinized beyond immediate gains, where corruption of the few in power would mean severe losses on a national scale.
That aside, this film centers itself squarely on the central character of the ruthless and cunning warlord Hao Jie (Andy Lau), who has no qualms in constantly gaining upper hands amongst enemies and allies even. In a wrongly calculated move to take on his sworn brother in an ambush, his protégé Cao Man (Nicholas Tse) probably had understood his mentor's philosophy that no man is indispensable to quash his insatiable appetite for power and glory, and through the countless of indoctrination in the Hao-Jie-School-of-Thought, it is no wonder that Cao Man ultimately decides to betray his master. Think of it as striking when the iron is hot to become top dog and making decisions, rather than taking them.
In a tale about retribution and karma, Shaolin doesn't deviate very far from those themes, of how evil intentions can lead one astray and suffer inconsolable consequences, only for religion to point one back to the path of righteousness and all things good. In some ways this resembled the story of Huo Yuanjia in Fearless, where pride comes before the fall of man, stripping him of everything and down to his core, then comes the rebuild of character, and ultimately walking the talk and redemption. Hao Jie's story follows this trajectory and there's no qualms about Andy Lau being cast in this dramatic role despite his lack of real martial arts skills as compared to his other counterparts in the film, opposite the likes of co-stars Nicholas Tse, Wu Jing, Xing Yu, Xiong Xin Xin and Jackie Chan who serves as comic relief as a Shaolin monk-cook.
But most of the co-stars were severely under-utilized, as the story, with responsibility coming from no less than five writers, didn't pay the others too much attention. Nicholas Tse probably had the meatier role as the chief villain who schemes and sneers, while the rest are in to showcase more of Shaolin martial arts in one film, except for Xiong Xin Xin being the villainous sidekick to Cao Man, with no dialogue. Wu Jing, Xing Yu and Ye Shaoqun all starred as the requisite monks caught up in the firefight as the latter two become part of a group who steals from the army to feed the villagers. Fan Bing Bing was a complete waste as the token female amongst the cast, and although she had a scene or two in a big action sequence in an ambush, little can be said once she appears on and off as the damsel always in distress.
Action direction came from Cory Yuen, with choreography courtesy of Yuen Tak (responsible for Gallants) and Li Chung Chi, all veterans in their field, so quality is almost assured when the combatants take on each other, although I must say that most fights ended as soon as they began, which is a pity. Quality also goes toward the art direction, with production values culminating in the recreation of the Shaolin Temple, made to resemble a bastion of compassion open to all and sundry displaced by warring factions seeking refuge at its doorsteps in tumultuous times.
Benny Chan's filmography may have blown hot and cold in recent years, but Shaolin establishes him back at the top of the game able to handle a big budgeted spectacle that doesn't necessarily rely on star power and action to deliver the goods, but actually is a thinking man's film on the philosophical aspects of Buddhism, and the balance of Martial Zen. Recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Being a huge fan of Hong Kong and Chinese visual effects, I really
wanted to see this one and also for Jackie Chan, although he didn't
have a huge role to play in this one. Also action direction coming from
veterans Cory Yuen, with Yuen Tak and Li Chung Chi, its definitely
something not to be missed Benny Chan's films may not have been the
best in the recent past but with Shaolin he definitely delivers a
blockbuster. A movie which is not only high on action but also rich in
the spirit of Buddhism.
The main protagonist Hou Jie (Andy Lau), a ruthless warlord who bear grudges with Shaolin Temple and sets to get rid of the people around him for his own benefits, is betrayed by his own brother and repents from the mistakes he made which leads to the death of his daughter. The cook (Chan) at the temple takes him into refuge where Hou decides to become a monk at the Shaolin which is where the Buddhist teachings come in to play. Disciples in Shaolin who bear grudges with Hou for his deeds in the past eventually accept him and in the climax war they all defend Shaolin from the invasion of Tsao's army and the Western powers.
Jackie Chan's cameo in an amusing role as the cook provides some comic relief for the audience in an otherwise intense plot which doesn't last for long since it deviates from the main concern of the film. But there is one fight sequence with Chan.
But what I did miss was some beautiful landscape views, with its massive set pieces it was something that was expected. Also, apart from the main characters not much attention was paid to the co-stars. No female presence as such in an overall grand movie of all sorts.
In the end its definitely worth a look, but you'll somehow just wish it was better. The climax with its awesome fight sequence and huge sets being exploded is also worth the watch.
I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this film. The acting was on point and seeing the main characters grow and evolve was simply amazing. The story is so rich and is absolutely refreshing to watch. The main character's journey is just.... powerful, honest and epic. You know the story....Build yourself up to be torn down, only to be built anew again - the story of life in my opinion and this was just executed beautifully. Of course the cinematography was great. There was so much THOUGHT in some of the shots that told a story in itself. Just incredible! I experienced every emotion and was thoroughly entertained the entire time.
A competent and action pack Shaolin movie
It is of a moment of
distinction to proclaim that Benny Chan's latest blockbuster, not only
revisited the glory days of Jet Li's first ever movie, but also
reunited two of the biggest Hong Kong actors ever. Mr. Andy Lau and Mr.
Jackie Chan appears on screen together for the first time since 1994's
Drunken Master 2. The moment they appear together, the screen goes on
fire. It is a special little segment that excites HK cinema fans,
including myself. However, Shaolin fails to exceed the audience
expectation and the result is a competent and efficient movie that
contains wonderful action sequences, but nothing more.
The real problem of director Benny Chan is not direction, but rather the criminal under usage of Fan Bing Bing and Nicholas Tse respectively. Tse for one, should be critical of his own performance. His villainous turn is neither convincing or menacing. In fact, he should take a leaf out of Mainland's actor, Liu Ye book of acting. His evil laugh is more cheesy than imagined and his overacting is far too laughable than villainous. A poor effort from someone who have improved immensely in films like Beast Stalker and Pigeon Stool. As for Fan Bing Bing, she performs wondrously in her extremely limited screen time. Her teary eye caught my attention, but with just two significant scenes, she is officially wasted.
All in all, Benny Chan improves from his previous Aaron Kwok's endeavor City Under Siege. From cheesy to competent action blockbuster, Chan perfectly casted superstar Andy Lau in a role that allows him to go through the motions. At the end of the day, this is a highly effective film for what it is. Unfortunately as with most Benny Chan's movies, the film entertains, but fails to delivers anything special or original to make a good film, great. Basically, Shaolin is a good film, but not great (Neo 2011)
I rate it 7.5/10
The movie is great when it comes to life values. the story line is to redundant. It is used to many times in other Chinese movies. The actors did well. The special effects is good but not great. on a budget of 29 million that was not bad. This morons who did not understand why Andy Lau became a monk did not get the story. They did not understand that the Shaolin is the purest place on the planet. That is why he went there for protection as well as atonement. After he understood the Shaolin way he needed to protect it. Jacki Chan makes a cameo in the movie. He plays a ex monk who can't be pacifistic. He in the end is the one who must continue with the traditions and teach the future monks somewhere else. Budda Bless All of You
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a remarkable story of a General (Andy Lau) who became a Shaolin monk through tragedy. A man who had everything, a career, a wife and daughter, and a knowing ability to conquer anything in his path. Yet to quell his desires for fame and fortune, his subordinate Cao Man (Ncholas Tse) had set him up during a dinner party with the General's own superior. During this supposed get together, a militia team storms in and creates pure chaos in Cao Man's name. General Hou Jie (Andy Lau) escapes his death along with his wife and daughter who were then split up to escape on their own. During the frightful night, the General manages to rescue his daughter and to take refuge among the very monks he was trying to evict from the province. With his daughters death, his wife blames him for every bit of turmoil they had succumbed to and leaves him, which causes his path to open and learn the words humility and self sacrifice. During this time of self discovery, Hou Jie learns the art of Shaolin martial arts as well as becoming a kind of helper to those who really need it. His kind of mentor would be the cook (Jackie Chan) who gives in his own way the ability to see how a noodle bends, or cooks in boiling water. Not much of a teaching tool, but to Hou Jie, it was more than enough to calm his nerves and his soul. I found this to be a really uplifting film, to see a General find his calling, and to create a chain reaction to those who felt war was the only answer. Cao Man learnt this as his ex superior gave his life to save Cao Man's during a raid of one of the last monasteries in china's existence. A riveting action film packed with emotions, guns, the turning of the period to the twentieth century, and the music was top notch. Highly recommended for those who wish to see how China's survival depended on their most needed and most cherished institution -- 'The Shaolin Monks.'
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The battle between warlords complicates life in the Shaolin temple.
When the winning warlord is betrayed, he eventually finds a safe place
and solace in the temple. However evil never rests and soon a
confrontation is brewing.
This is film of massive set pieces. They are the sort of thing that makes you go wow. Capping it all off is the climax a huge action sequence that floor you with its non-stop action.
Unfortunately the film is dramatically simple, perhaps a little too simple. The trouble is that the film didn't seem to have all that much depth beyond those minimally required for the story. The film his all the points it should for each sequence but little else. Other than the scale the film also seems to be tad TV movieish in execution.
It's never bad, it's just not as great as the spectacular set pieces make you think it should be.
Definitely worth a look, you'll just wish it was better.
This might be the first film I've ever seen with Jackie Chan in a
genuine supporting role. Since he started in films in the early 80s he
has either been the STAR, the star, the co-star, or a mere cameo. There
has been precious little in between.
In an are in China where many warlords fought and struggled over territory and power, the Chinese Army were cruel and violent pricks at least that's how they are portrayed here.
One of the worst of these was leader General Hou Jie, he callously orders the killing of innocent villagers for fear that they may possibly be harbouring the enemy, and the killing of the enemy because well they're the enemy (can't argue that one). When his reluctant 2IC Cao Man expresses doubt at the level of violence and whether those targeted even deserve what is being dished out he receives an impromptu lesson: 'it is better to be the aggressor and be wrong than the passive dead guy', or something along those lines.
On this day though they follow an enemy into peaceful monk territory, a Shaolin temple. While the monks refuse to take sides they will not allow violence on their turf, and they protect the man. Initially.
Hou Jie backs down on his word and guns down the soldier in an act of proactive violence, pausing on the way out only to deface some sacred Shaloin signage. He gets home to his wife and adoring daughter who proudly shows him a drawing of him in action with the title 'My Daddy likes fighting' (I shouldn't judge, my boy might say 'My Daddy likes chips and beer!) Back in cautiously peaceful time Hou Jie becomes increasingly nervous about the prospect of being betrayed or attacked even by his good friend and ally. In another unnecessary pre-emptive strike Hao Jie takes his friend out in cold blood purely to advance his own station and eradicate another potential rival and hindrance to his success.
Unfortunately though Hou Jie's actions and teaching eventually (and inevitably) work against him, his former 2IC Cao Man betrays him and Hou Jie must seek refuge immediately but where? What follows is a generally rewarding tale of realisation and redemption. Jackie Chan (see how long it took to even mention him!) plays a humble and peaceful yet eccentric cook who kindly takes Hou Jie under his care.
After a period of time Hou Jie embraces the life of a monk montage-style, shaving his head a la Britney for a clean start albeit without the insanity and finds peace for now. Because meanwhile Cao Man has effortlessly and successfully stepped into his shoes and is now just as ruthless and violent a leader.
Confusingly enough in a film about a violent and cruel man realising the error of his ways we always know that this pro-peace film will end in violence, and the action in the latter part of the film is worth the wait. There is an ax-fight that seemed quite realistic and dangerous, a chariot chase (of sorts) and the wire work was used sparingly enough to be forgiven for the most part. Andy Lau proves himself an adept and reasonably athletic martial artist, and there is no shortage of random monks ready to throw down in self defense of course.
It takes a long while but even Jackie Chan gets to try his aching muscles out near the end of the film, even though in truth his entire role and fighting scenes are thematically at odds with the rest of the film and stand out like a sore thumb. It is like Jackie has now entered the Brian Dennehy / Morgan Freeman phase of his career as the elder statesman, only every director and perhaps even Jackie himself can't help but remember that he was once the pre-eminent cinematic martial artist on the planet, so they clumsily try to work him in.
Shaolin is a film book-ended by violence, the redemptive tale in the middle is supposed to provide the moral of the story I guess, but that could easily be forgotten by the 30 minute finale that ends in many dead when even the monks say 'enough'.
Final Rating 6 / 10. Muddled morals aside Shaolin is well acted, reasonably well paced (aside from one interminably long 'will she / won't she?' scene that I can't spoil here) and contains a few of the better martial arts sequences filmed in the last few years.
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