With epic productions such as this martial arts-action blockbuster Shaolin, expectations are bound to run high. But director Benny Chan (Fist Of Fury) succeeds in drawing you into a world of Chinese monastic life, delivering a largely satisfying thrill ride replete with much action and adventure.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF SCORPIO EAST|
Set in an emerging China where civil war ravages throughout the land, the Shaolin monastery is seen as the last bastion of hope for those beleaguered by the endless strife. Andy Lau plays Hou Jie, a ruthless warlord who trespasses into sacred Shaolin territory in search of a runaway. In an ironic twist of atonement and redemption, however, he finds himself turning to these very same monks for refuge himself.
A remake of Jet Li’s 1982 movie, The Shaolin Temple, Shaolin boasts a string of high-wattage stars besides Lau—Fan Bingbing as Hou Jie’s wife, Nicholas Tse as his back-handed apprentice, and Jackie Chan with a substantial cameo role. The production set includes a full construction of the sacred Shaolin Temple itself as filming in the actual shrine was prohibited for fear of damaging it.
There are minor quibbles—who really needs to see another token Caucasian spouting Mandarin in a sing-song manner? But as the movie got thicker into the action, I was seamlessly immersed into the narrative flow, buoyed by sweeping cinematography. It is an epic production of humanity, suspense and melodrama, and Lau lends admirable gravity to his character as villain, refugee and finally, victor.