General Hou's Chicken: Kung Fu Export Shaolin Tows the Party Line

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Shaolin
Directed by Benny Chan
Well Go USA and Variance Films
Opens September 9, Cinema Village

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This crude, overlong chunk of kung-fu kitsch lays its scene in a 1920s Republican China, torn by internecine fighting and weighed down by drably expensive production design. Warlord General Hou (Andy Lau) expands his power with amoral avarice, but overreaching leads to his tragic comeuppance, and the once-proud General finds himself a fugitive, sheltered by the humble monks of the very Shaolin Temple that he'd once profaned. The residents, including an earthy comic-relief cook (Jackie Chan), rehabilitate Hou's soul with homilies and martial Zen, so by the time his usurper ex-protégé, Cao Man (Nicholas Tse), brings war to the temple, the atoned-for Hou has been drilled to confront him with wire-fighting and wisdom that sounds suspiciously Party Line ("You possess far more than you need!"). Some vigorous fight scenes hardly compensate for the basely pious drama, spurred along by a fetish for child endangerment and slo-mo martyrdom. Amid so much shaven-pated earnestness, Tse's feverish warlord is a welcome note of baroque, flouncy-haired melodramatic wickedness, slaughtering his countrymen while selling off priceless relics and railroad concessions to foreign devils. "China belongs to the Chinese!" Hou elsewhere objects. The Chinese will not have much difficulty keeping their film industry to themselves with flagship products like Shaolin.

 
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4 comments
lucillalin
lucillalin

It is also historically inaccurate (suits the Party Line). The real destroyer of the monastery was a Chinese warlord (who would actually make an enjoyable character for a historical film!) But its nothing new, real history is a ways more entertaining than historical films...

I don't think I've ever seen a film before where "foreigners", without any given nationality, are so blatantly evil. I don't know how far to WWII times war propaganda I'd have to dig to find equaling treasures. This overt hatred of "foreigners" showed not only in the white villains with fake beards, but also in the costumes and choice of weaponry - Tse wore western-type clothing and used guns (and in one scene which was a perfect example of violent aestheticism, bayonets).

Tangeirene Y.
Tangeirene Y.

Pinkerton's interpretation belies a shallow, elementary, and baseless characterization of both Buddhist principles and Chinese politics. This film was a powerful allegorical story about the interdependence of karma, the purpose of compassion as a global society, the opportunity for every person to awaken if they can learn to take mutual responsibility and confront whatever happens. I have rarely felt so much peace, and understood its purpose, in so much violence. tse's acting and dress were melodramatically bad (i wanted to see him defeated on the basis of his bad haircut alone) -- but that was not the point of the movie.

Tkemper77
Tkemper77

The Democrat party line, apparently.

Floyd Webb
Floyd Webb

Talking about towing a party line. The review above perpetuates commits that same sin he accuses the film of.

 

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