Monday, February 6, 2012

Modern Shaolin

Poster for Shaolin
 Hello again! The other day I finally got around to watching Benny Chan's 2011 film, Shaolin. The verdict? Pretty damned good! The film features Andy Lau in the starring role as a ruthless warlord turned monk who is eventually forced to fight his former subordinate played by Nicholas Tse. The gorgeous Fan Bing Bing plays the wife of Andy Lau's character and Jackie Chan has a supporting role as a temple's resident chef. Wushu artist, turned actor Wu Jing and Yu Xing, the kicking guy from Kung Fu Hustle make appearances as monks. Quite an awesome cast.

Andy Lau pointing his gun towards a group of monks before he becomes one... does anyone else get the Street Fighter M. Bison/Vega vibe?
The film takes place in what is often referred to as the "warlords" era in 1920's China, where the Kuo Min Tang and other factions were vying for power over China's mainland, resulting in war, famine and displacement. The film revolves around Andy Lau's character, a general of one such faction (though fictitious) who after attempting to assassinate a fellow general and sworn brother, is betrayed by his subordinate, suffers the death of his daughter and the loss of his wife, who leaves him after blaming him for their daughter's demise, and becomes Shaolin a monk. His new home, of course, becomes the famous Shaolin Monastery in Hunan, China, where the film was shot.  (there is actually more than one Shaolin temple as "Shaolin" loosely translates to "mountain-forest"... sort of).

Andy works out with some baldies!
The action in the film is good old Kung Fu action that recall some of the finest early 90's HK Kung Fu action, with a number of awesomely choreographed fight scenes which show off the martial prowess of the martially gifted cast (excluding of course non-martial actors, Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Fan Bing Bing etc.) One particularly fantastic/hilarious scene has Jackie Chan's character using his cooking skills for fighting while three child-monks beat the snot out of a bunch of rifle-men. What's not to love?

The real Shaolin Temple in Hunan, China
 Perhaps the most interesting thing about this film, however, is the fact that it was made with the cooperation of the actual Shaolin Monastery, with real monks filling in as extras for the film. Apparently prior to making this film, the Shaolin monastery expressed, to the film powers that be, that they wished to be better represented in film and that to ensure this they would participate in sponsoring and the actual film making process of Shaolin Monastery themed films. The result of this agreement is this film, which is apparently the first in a line of new Shaolin themed and sponsored films to come. If their all as fun as this film, I can't wait!

A Shaolin Temple poster from 1982 featuring a young Jet Li
 Another interesting fact about this film is that its considered by its director and producers to be a remake of the 1982 film which was the vehicle for Jet Li's big screen debut, Shaolin Temple which is, in itself a remake of an even older film which I have yet to see. The 1982 Jet Li one, however, is certainly one of my favorite Kung Fu movies EVER! So if you like this sort of thing, check out both of these films! I've included trailers below!


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