Director: Cheung Sing Yim
Cast: Jet Li, Yu Cheng Wai, Yu Hai, Din Nan, Chang Jien Wun, Ji Chuan Wah, Hu Chien Keung, Wong Kwang Chuan, Sun Jien Hwu, Yin Tee Wah
Running Time: 95 min.
Watch enough modern-day cop stories and Americanized Hong Kong films, and a straight-out chop socky flick like this almost seems new and innovative. Shaolin Temple is an above average kung fu movie, in most ways much like a million others from the 1970s, remarkable mostly for being Jet Li’s first film (and for possibly setting some sort of record for animal cruelty; a toad, a dog, and some sheep all bite the dust before the half-way point). He certainly got off to a better start than Jackie Chan did; this movie is clearly superior to most of Jackie’s drek with Lo Wei, The Man With No Clue. A few of them, admittedly, provided a modicum of amusement (especially Dragon Fist), but this film is more endearing somehow, and does not pretend to be anything more than what it is (Spiritual Kung Fu was supposed to be funny).
The plot is about as hackneyed as they come, with Jet Li training in Shaolin kung fu to avenge his father’s death (how many times have those last five words been used to describe martial arts movies?). As silly as that is, it’s kind of hard not to like a film that concludes with about 20 minutes of almost non-stop fighting involving dozens of warriors. Jet and the supporting players duke it out on other occasions as well, with no high-flying or little exploding thingies…just old-as-the-hills hand-to-hand combat the way it was meant to be, from back in the days when it took more than special effects and a pretty face to appear in a martial arts movie and not make a fool of yourself. The result is a fun little flick that kind of makes you want to go out and beat up some bad guys, and maybe expand your culinary horizons as well (dead dog and ram’s penis, yum yum).
Numskull’s Rating: 7/10
Jet Li’s first movie and one of the best martial arts movies ever made! Although it is a very basic story, it is extremely well done, lighthearted and fast, and it immediately showcases Jet Li’s undeniable screen-presence, charisma and (of course) his perfect Wushu skills. All wushu performers in this movie are real-life martial arts masters, and apparently no tricks whatsoever were used in the action scenes (no wires, no trampolines etc), not even for that 900-degrees spin Jet performs!
This movie showcases many different kung fu styles, like drunken-boxing, sword-fights, mantis-style etc etc etc (a lot okay!?). All of the fight scenes are really outstanding, except for the final one in which Jet kills the bad guy (ah duuuhhh….) rather easily, which is fairly short.
This is also a Mainland China production (which was 3 years in total production time), so the viewer gets to see the REAL shaolin temple, as well as some other beautiful scenery. This is a pretty old movie however, so most viewers are probably already spoiled with the experiences of more recent HK-Kung fu movies, in which is the action is faster and the camerawork and the choreography is more daring and faster.
Just enjoy the action and be amazed by the unbelievable talents of Jet Li and Co.
Yi-Long’s Rating: 9/10