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Posts Tagged ‘Wang Xueqi’

Monk Comes Down the Mountain

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

Chen Kaige is an acclaimed Chinese filmmaker I have no familiarity with. Too classy for me, I guess. Now I finally watched one, but not one of his famous ones from the ‘80s or ‘90s, it’s his 14th film, a straight up kung fu movie from 2015 called MONK COMES DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. And the reason is because it’s based on a book by Xu Haofeng, who wrote Wong Kar Wai’s THE GRANDMASTER and directed THE SWORD IDENTITY, JUDGE ARCHER and THE FINAL MASTER. I adore his style and his themes and his two most recent (THE HIDDEN SWORD and 100 YARDS) aren’t available here yet, so I’ll take what I can get.

This is a good one but totally different from those other movies I mentioned. The ones Xu directs have a very artful economy and restraint to them, the compositions and camera movements are often very classical, the fighting styles are uniquely straightforward, often based around quick, simple movements rather than flying around all over the place. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I love flying around all over the place, but I like how distinct this other approach is.

MONK COMES DOWN THE MOUNTAIN is not that. Nor is it a TV movie starring Tony Shalhoub. It’s a big show-offy kung fu fantasy, with lots of digital FX, some of them pretty goofy. It was released in 3D Imax, and (unlike American movies, which are too cowardly to do 3D stuff in 3D movies) you can tell. And it’s often comedic in a broad, muggy kind of way. Xu’s movies tend to have a much dryer humor. (read the rest of this shit…)

Reign of Assassins

Monday, April 11th, 2022

I’m an idiot so it took me more than a decade to get around to watching REIGN OF ASSASSINS (2010), even though it’s directed by John Woo. Well, sort of – it’s actually directed by Su Chao-pin (SILK [2006]), but Woo was with him the whole time to mentor him, so he got a co-director credit. He says he gave advice, but never imposed his style. And I definitely wouldn’t confuse it for his movies.

It is a pretty enjoyable wuxia movie though, and it stars Michelle Yeoh, so I’m glad I finally got my shit together.

The story concerns various killers fighting over the mummified corpse of “the powerful monk Bodhi” because, according to the narrator of the prologue, “They say that whoever possesses the Bodhi remains will rule the martial arts world.” Through some not-great illustrations and freeze frame/bullet time character introductions we learn that members of “The Dark Stone, a secret guild of the world’s deadliest assassins” killed Minister Zhang Haiduan and stole the remains, but “amidst the chaos an assassin, Shi Yu (apparently called “Drizzle” in some translations), discovers Grandmaster Bodhi’s remains and disappears into the night…” All the other assassins try to kill her to get a reward. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bodyguards and Assassins

Monday, April 10th, 2017

BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS is really not fair to the assassins – it’s all about how great and selfless the bodyguards are. I thought I should give that warning to the more sensitive members of the assassin community. I still thought it was good though.

This 2009 film from director Teddy Chan (KUNG FU KILLER) is another one in that IP MAN vein of an Important Historical Drama infused with exaggerated martial arts greatness. I so wish our Oscar bait movies had kung fu in them. Think how much better IMITATION GAME would be!

In 1906, the pro-democracy activist Dr. Sun Wen (Zhang Hanyu, SPECIAL ID, THE GREAT WALL) is about to meet in British-ruled Hong Kong with regional leaders to plan a revolution, but the Chinese government is trying to assassinate him. So this is about the brave rebels who volunteer to escort him to the meeting. (read the rest of this shit…)