Shaolin [新少林寺] (2011)
Starring Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Fan Bing-Bing, Wu Jing, Shi Yanneng, Yu Shaoqun, Xiong Xin-Xin, Yu Hai, Bai Bing, Jackie Chan
Directed by Benny Chan
Expectations: High. A big-budget Shaolin Temple remake? OK!
Benny Chan’s Shaolin is an interesting film. It’s got the look and the feel of a big Hollywood feature, but its subject matter is firmly rooted in the cultural history of China. It also features action and martial arts scenes that harken back to the 90s heyday of Hong Kong action cinema. Unfortunately as a whole Shaolin isn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Shaolin is a loose remake of the 1982 film Shaolin Temple, the film that introduced Jet Li to the Chinese moviegoing public. I haven’t seen Shaolin Temple in a good fifteen years so I can’t comment on whether this follows the same story or if it does a good job of adapting the tale to fit its needs. A quick glance at the Wikipedia synopsis shows that while there are certain elements that carry over, Shaolin is basically a new story.
Andy Lau plays a ruthless general who values little over wealth and power. He’s our main character (and the hero) but this doesn’t become apparent until about forty-five minutes in or so. This makes for a strange, somewhat off-putting opening section of the film that I think would have better served the story if it had been tightened up. I understand the reasoning behind structuring the film as they do and it does lay great groundwork for scenes later in the film, but for the movie to not have a distinct identity until forty-five minutes in is a bit odd.