China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power by warring over neighboring lands…
Release Year: 2011
Rating: 6.8/10 (6,160 voted)
Critic's Score: 53/100
Stars: Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, 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 after killing a rival warlord on their temple grounds. But the glory comes before a fall. His own family is wiped out in an unexpected turn of events and 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 of rescue and escape.
Writers: Alan Yuen, Chi Kwong Cheung
General Hou Jie
Hou Jie's wife
Xin Xin Xiong
Yan Ming Shi
In a land torn by strife, the righteous monks of Shaolin stand as a beacon of hope for the oppressed masses.
Release Date: 9 September 2011
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $19,132
(11 September 2011)
(9 October 2011)
Did You Know?
To avoid having to shave his head, Jackie Chan wears a cap throughout the picture.
[to Huo Jie]
I don't know an of this, all i know is it's worthless to train just the moves without the spirit.
The rare blockbuster that is not just loud on spectacle, but also rich in heart and spirit
The 1982 gongfu classic "Shaolin" introduced Jet Li to the world, but
there is no breakout star to be found here in Benny Chan's take on the
famed birthplace of Shaolin martial arts. No matter really- though
Heavenly King Andy Lau may not have the moves or the agility to match
Jet Li, his leading man performance here is no less terrific. Indeed,
what Andy lacks in the physical department, he more than amply makes up
for with his dramatic chops, delivering a deeply moving performance as
the arrogant and scheming warlord Hou Jie who undergoes a 180-degree
transformation under the tutelage of the Shaolin monks.
This transformation is at the heart of Benny Chan's film, which
differentiates itself splendidly from the recent crop of period epics
with a generous infusion of Buddhist teachings. These nuggets of wisdom
elevate "Shaolin" into a surprisingly thoughtful film, meditating on
the fruitlessness of anger, violence and hatred, and preaching ever
persuasiveness the merits of peace, compassion and love. Non-believers
however need not fear- Benny's sure hand never lets the film become
sanctimonious, instead emphasising the universal truths of these
teachings and demonstrating their truism through a heartfelt yarn.
Written by no less than four writers, the story is a gripping one of
repentance and renewal set amidst a time when China was torn apart by
internal strife and threatened by foreign powers. General Hou Jie was
one such local warlord, his hunger for power matched by that of his
second-in-command, the equally scheming Cao Man (Nicholas Tse). A
compelling opening sequence introduces Hou Jie and Cao Man as the
despotic men they are (at least at the start), chasing an enemy right
into the compounds of the Shaolin temple and paying no heed to the
abbot's words to let him save the dying man.
Hou's victory though is short-lived, as an ambush on his sworn brother
whom he suspects of ill intentions goes awry. The orchestrator is none
other than Cao Man, whose own tyrannical ambitions Hou had fomented
over the years. In a reversal of fate, the film plants Hou at the
doorstep of the Shaolin temple, seeking the monks' help to rescue his
badly wounded young daughter. There is an obvious play on the Buddhist
concept of karma here- but rather than dwell too much on these
implications, Benny shrewdly grounds this turn of events in keenly-felt
poignancy, underscoring their importance as a defining moment in Hou
Jie's subsequent metamorphosis.
Whereas lesser directors may have been tempted to skim through Hou
Jie's redemptive journey, Benny exhibits an assuredness in allowing the
movie to settle down to a more measured pace before its action-packed,
explosive (literally) finale. He also brings on Jackie Chan in an
amusing role as the resident Shaolin cook Wu Dao, a laid-back fellow
perfectly content with his circumstance. It is not unlike the one
Jackie played in "Little Big Soldier" two years ago, but it's always
enjoyable to see the veteran gongfu actor back on screen, especially in
a particularly entertaining sequence where he uses his cooking skills
to good measure against Cao Man's soldiers.
Other notable supporting roles include Wu Jing as the senior Shaolin
monk Qing Neng and Hou's mentor, as well as Xiong Xin Xin (best known
as Ghost Feet Seven in the Wong Fei Hung series) as Cao Man's evil
henchman Jiang Yuan. Unfortunately, the script doesn't quite do justice
to the actors playing these supporting roles- Xiong's character and Fan
Bingbing's one as Hou Jie's wife Yan Xi are sorely underwritten and a
waste of their considerable talent. If there is one consolation, it
must be that Benny has given Andy ample screen time to flesh out the
complexities of his character.
And what a job Andy does, equally effective as the egotistical warlord
on the pursuit of riches and power and as the reformed monk who
realises the folly of his past ways. There's never been a doubt that
Andy possessed screen charisma, but here he rewards Benny's attention
to his character with a richly nuanced and textured portrayal of a man
struggling to overcome his angry and violent tendencies to become a
better person. Just as impressive is his gongfu, though no match for
Jet Li's naturally but still admirable nonetheless- especially when he
duels with Nicholas with a long wooden pole.
Thanks to some nifty action direction by Corey Yuen and choreography by
veteran stunt people Yuen Tak and Lee Chung Chi, the action sequences
do not disappoint. But ultimately, the strength of Benny Chan's
"Shaolin" lies in how surprisingly intellectual and deeply moving it
is- intellectual in its Buddhist leanings of the vicious cycle war,
hatred and greed perpetrates; and moving in its portrayal of one man's
redemptive journey to free himself from his sinful past. It is a
blockbuster in every sense, from spectacle, to emotion, and most of all