Monday, January 31, 2011

Shaolin (2011) Movie Review

Shaolin (2011)

Directed by Benny Chan. Starring Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Bingbing Fan. 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 when he beats one of them in a duel. But the pride comes before a fall. When his own family is wiped out by a rival warlord, 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 or rescue and escape.

This movie is grand martial arts spectacular, brimming with action, redemption and a generous helping of Zen Buddhism.

The beginning of the movie is a little slow, it does an okay job to bring out the important characters of the movie, before jumping into the plot. This new Shaolin is indeed much more epic than the previous one, and it can be seen as the production value is much higher.

Set during the tumultuous Warlord era of the early 20th Century, Andy Lau plays Hao Jie, a ruthless warlord, whose overwhelming victories and amassed personal wealth and success have come at the expense of the country's vast, struggling population.

Hao is betrayed by his own ambitious apprentice Cao Man (Nicolas Tse), sees his young daughter killed, he is forced to flee for his life. Ultimately Hao seeks refuge at a Shaolin temple and though reluctant at first to help a warlord, but later the monks welcome him in.

The story is very straightforward, without much plot twists, but the fights are well choreographed and the editing is pretty tight, compacting the whole story of Hao Jie's redemption in about 2 hours.

Coupled with a great score and beautiful scenery, this tale of epic redemption is well paced, and it attempts to make you feel for the characters in the movie which it had delivered pretty well.

Andy Lau's performance is exceptional in the movie both portraying the ruthless warlord and an enlightened monk. The final scene with lots of action, fights and explosions also tries to make the redemption even more emotional, and it does gets some fans wet around the eyes.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, and this is one that you should check out on the big screen.

Overall: 8/10

-- Robin Low


Wendy said...

I would like to support the movie but unfortunately the show is a great disappointment.

Good casts and great set up but the story and details are very weak and the execution is old school and very B grade Hollywood. Numerous sequential problem and unrealistic.

With such a big budget, I wonder why the research is done so poorly? The whole thing is too superficial and not convincing.


VeryBerry said...

I just came back from watching this movie and I would like to know what is it that Wendy find lacking when she mentioned 'research is done so poorly'?

Whatever happened in the movie seems pretty realistic to me (the betrayals, redemptions, regrets, and sacrifices)

Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I would greatly appreciate it if Wendy could enlighten me and the others on why she finds it unrealistic and superficial :)

Wendy said...

Very berry,

I agree with you about the betrayals, redemptions, regrets and sacrifices bit of the movie. Also the message of the movie - the theory of Karma is very clear.

If you have a more in depth interest to find out more about armoury and Chinese history, then you will know where I'm coming from.
Just to name a few things that I classify as not convincing - Wrong armours at the wrong era (e.g. the machine gun portrayed is a product 1880s but the warlord era is 1912-1928); the Shaolin monastery actually was burnt down by Shi yousan (KuoMingTang) in 1928 but not for the reason or by people described in the movie; the ways people died as a result of different weapons should not be as what we have seen on screen (refer to War documentary like Apocalypes -WWII to check out a few examples); the 'enemy' is a foreigner and that's all it says.

If we solely treat this movie as a fictional drama, the story is still too weak and predicatable. No new elements at all. The writer and the director has applied typical - Hollywood tactic (which I think is outdated) to execute the story - the Good and the bad characters, the suspense and ending are significantly predictable (FIst of Fury (Huo Yuen Jia), Ip Man and Wong Fei Hung series has similar problems too). Sequence - problem at the blasting scenes - if you can play back the movie, you'll see the damage, sound effect are not consistent. The martial art bit is interesting but a little over stylized.
So, this movie is neither convincing as a factual nor fictional story. It's not badly done but not well executed either. Was it entertaining? Not entirely.

Whether a movie is good or not, it really depends on what are we comparing to! I like to be proud of Asian/ Chinese movies too. So far, only Infernal Affairs (Wu jian dao) & Rang Zhi Dan Fei are the few good ones if you ask me.


Iron Bowl said...

I believe this is a purely fictional drama, not the historic burning of Shaolin, but an version with lots of Buddhist preaching.

The action was good though, fairly entertaining.