Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Forbiddon Kingdom

It was an event that fans of Martial Arts Cinema had been craving for many years. An on-screen pairing of two of the living legends of Asian Cinema, Jet Li and Jackie Chan. The biggest question that wondered through many minds was how would it work? Who would be the villain, who would be the hero? Could they manage to pull off a buddy cop film? How do you put together two icons that have individually created two quite different catalogues of films? Chan with his family friendly anti-violent stunt showcases, and Li with his polar opposite fist to face, bone shattering action showcases. The answer would come from the surprising duo of Director Rob Minkoff and screenwriter John Fusco. An American made production that can only be compared to that of the Never-ending Story esc 1980’s fantasy adventure films. Something that I think we can all agree would have been the last thing we could have ever guessed.

The story begins in modern day Boston as we are introduced to our hero, no not Jet Li or Jackie Chan, but a young martial arts film fanatic Jason Tripitikas. (Played by Michael Angarano) A rather unknown actor, who has managed to earn the envy of many die-hard kung fu fanatics across the globe. Right away fans can relate to Jason’s character, who frequents a local China Town shop run by an old man named “Old Hop” to hunt down as many old kung fu films he can get his hands on, upon one visit he also discovers an old bow-staff in the back of the store which Old Hop tells Jason is waiting to be picked up by someone and returned to its rightful owner. Mysterious?

Jason’s adventure starts to unfold when he has an unfortunate run-in with a local bully who forces him to return with them to the Old man’s shop to help rob it. During the commotion of the robbery attempt Jason discovers that there is more to that old Bow then he though as he is suddenly jolted back in time to ancient China. What exactly triggers this event is not entirely explained but really, does it matter?

Not long after he find himself in the strange new land Jason meets an old drunken traveler Lu Yan (Chan) who immediately recognises the Bow he is holding as that of the legendary Monkey King (Li), who has been turned to stone by the Evil Jade Warlord (played by Colin Chou). Soon joined by a beautiful young girl and a mysterious Monk (also Li), the group set off to return the bow to its rightful owner, but not before they have to teach Jason Kung Fu! (Insert Montage here)

This may not have been exactly what fans were looking for when they were awaiting collaboration between Jet Li and Jackie Chan. What we did get though, is far from the disaster it could have been. With the help of Yuen Woo ping, the fight choreography is nothing short of spectacular (in a wire-fu fantasy kind of way). Obviously the highlight of the film comes with a memerable showdown between Li and Chan. The kind of fight we have been waiting for since Jackie Chan had his small brawl with Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung in Dragons Forever.

Fans of Kung Fu cinema will also enjoy the many nods to several classic martial arts films. Including a villain who bares a striking resemblance to Bridget Lin in “The Bride with White Hair”, as well as an opening credit sequence that will make Shaw Brothers fans jump for joy! However great these moments are, its Jackie Chan doing Drunken Boxing again that really sets the nostalgia a blaze!


A Film By Rob Minkoff

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