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ĄŁ¤½ (1993)
The Mad Monk


Reviewed by: kiliansabre
Date: 03/20/2010
Summary: Not good

It took me a long while to find this film. I hold Stephen Chow's films in the highest regard with a few exceptions. Unfortunately, this is one of the exceptions. I find it a bit interesting that this movie was written by Sandy Shaw Lai-King who wrote the recent Chow movie CJ7 which might explain the uneven pacing of that movie as well. There are a few good comedy bits in this movie, but not many and most of the comedy here fails. There is also an ackwordly bad balance between the comedy and the super natural scenes.

If you are a hard core Stephen Chow fan and are seeking this out, nothing wrong with that. Just don't expect God of Cookery or Shaolin Soccer. This is a far cry from those days. If you come in thinking of this as a lesser Chow vehicle you probably won't be disappointed and might enjoy it more than I did after all of the anticipation.


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 06/28/2006

The Mad Monk is one of the lesser-known entries in Stephen Chow's filmography, and for good reason. It's not a horrible movie - in fact, it offers up a fair share of chuckles during its' running time - but it's nothing memorable. During the running time, the viewer tends to get the feeling that everyone involved, especially Chow, was just coasting around, with little real interest into creating a movie rather than a quick paycheck.

Chow plays his usual "talented but still a smartass" role. This time out, he's the Dragon Fighter god Lo Han, whose antics have angered the other gods enough that they sentence him to be reincarnated as an animal. But the Goddess of Mercy (Anita Mui) takes pity on Lo Han, and makes a deal with him. If Lo Han can go to earth and changes the lives of three people (Maggie Cheung, Anthony Wong and Kirk Wong) without using any of his powers, Lo Han will be allowed back into heaven. With a couple of sidekicks (Ng Man-Tat and Wong Yat-Fei) in tow, Lo Han heads to earth - but He Lo-Shan, an evil demon, has some other plans for him that might throw the plan into jeopardy.

A big reason behind Stephen Chow's success is his ability to somehow wrap up the disjointed "moy len tau" style into a cohesive unit. Unfortunately, The Mad Monk is one of the few times in his comedic career where this simply does not happen. It's not due to the use of Cantonese puns or Chinese religious symbolism - though both things figure heavily into the film. Rather, there is not the one point of focus (usually a love interest) that keeps things on track. There's simply too many characters and too many subplots for the average viewer to keep track of. I'm not saying that movies should be "dumbed down", but sometimes film-makers have to know when to say when. Chow and company attempt to do way too much with the story here, and thus lose the viewer in the process. This one's recommended for die-hard Chow fans only.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 12/26/2005
Summary: Pretty good fantasy film

THE MAD MONK (1993) has been one of my "holy grail" films for ages, due to the inavailability of a dvd release with Cantonese audio (I tried watching in Mandarin and it hurt the film badly, so I'm glad I waited). Finally a decent release has surfaced as part of the Celestial pictures Shaw Brothers library (nicely restored and remastered, with original mono and a pretty good subtitle translation... and the all important Cantonese audio track). I think the film's reputation has suffered unfairly from the number of people that have only seen it in Mandarin, as it's a pretty good Chiau film, though not one of his best.

The plot is... complicated! Chiau plays a heavenly "fairy" (love the misuse of that word in HK subtitles :p) who annoys the other celestial beings by meddling with their plans for humanity. It turns out Chiau feels human beings get a rough deal from the gods, who should learn to be more compassionate. He suggests they should try living amongst the humans to get a better feel for them, and (didn't quite follow this) ends up being sent down to earth to try and redeem the lives of a beggar, a prostitute and a villain by proving they can become "decent folk".

The story quickly becomes complicated, with references to Buddhist philosophy and mythology that the subtitles can hardly be hoped to adequately explain to a gwei lo like me, and not particularly helped by the mo-lei-tau comedy that is mixed in haphazardly with more serious material. Events fly by with little exposition, and I can only imagine that the audience was expected to be more familiar with the character and story than this viewer was.

Production values are surprisingly low for a film with such a star cast and crew, with some really obviously visible makeup and inexcusably visible wires. The sets for heaven are exceedingly artificial, but I imagine this was at least partially deliberate. The action in the film largely consists of Ching Siu-Tung's trademark flying, twirling and wholesale destruction of scenery... it's not amongst his best work.

I guess those would count as flaws, so why do I say it's "pretty good"? Well, because it features Stephen Chiau doing what he does best - being himself! Some of the supporting cast offer worthy moments, particularly Anthony Wong, but it's Chiau that carries the film. There was apparently quite a bit of conflict between Chiau and director Johnnie To on set, and that may explain the inconsistent tone and style - there are bits that are definitely Chiau moments and others that are definitely not. Apparently To's self-confidence was hurt by the experience, and he considered quitting as a director... I'm glad he didn't, given some of the fantastic work he has produced since, but it does seem that this particular job was not right for him. It would have been very interesting to see what Tsui Hark made of the film, since re-imaging traditional stories and genres was his forte, and he was at his peak around the time this was made. I can't imagine him and Chiau working together though... if he was butting heads with Johnnie To, he would probably have killed or been killed by Tsui Hark!

Another virtue of the film is Maggie Cheung, who may not be acting to the best of her ability but certainly looks lovely here :) Anita Mui's small amount of screen time as the Goddess Of Mercy herself is also a plus.

Overall, I'd say there's more that's right with the film than wrong, though it is definitely a lesser Chiau film and *certainly* not one to use as an introduction to the man or to HK cinema. For the afficionados out there, it's definitely worth seeing - now that there's a dvd release that does it justice.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 08/17/2005
Summary: mad to release this movie

My biggest compliant about this movie is the poor editing!! Scenes jump from one scene to another, one example was Anthony Wong sleeping and then the next scene he is outside in the day time!!

The rest of the film wasn't funny. The "milk" joke went overboard. Maggie Cheung looked cute, Anthony Wong's character was annoying and Stephen Chow, well is Stephen Chow.

A disappointment, not one of his better movies and with the poor editing, makes it hard to watch

3/10


Reviewed by: danton
Date: 04/07/2002

Stephen Chiau period film from the early nineties that was poorly received at the box office, and is not mentioned often by Western fans given the lack of a decent subtitled release. In fact the only version I was able to find was a cheap mainland dvd that does not include the original Cantonese dub. So if you require English subs to follow the story, you will have to make due with a Mandarin version, and while not being able to listen to Chiau's original voice certainly diminishes the viewing experience, I found it still acceptable after a few minutes of adjustment.

Directed efficiently by Johnny To, the movie tells the story of a god played by Chiau who is sent down to earth during the Song dynasty to prove that humans have the power to change their fate. In order to prove this, he must convince a prostitute, a villain and a beggar, who have followed their respective paths in life through nine reincarnations, to give up their professions and change themselves into something better. This quest starts out in the usual slapstick fashion, with sidekick Ng Man-Tat playing a particularly obnoxious heavenly helper, but soon the story moves into stronger emotional territory, with all three human guinee pigs (including Maggie Cheung as the prostitute and Anthony Wong as the beggar) suffering as a result of the gods' meddling.

There's also a sideplot about the God of the Underworld who attempts to stealing Buddha's scepter, and this sideplot takes over the movie towards the end, with Chiau's character as the lone opponent trying to defeat the demon. Visually, this is all presented very nicely, and it feels almost like a trial run for Chiau's later Chinese Odyssey movies.

The movie ends where it started back in a very kitschy-looking heaven, with a cameo by Anita Mui as the Godess of Mercy.

Not one of Chiau's best movies, but still quite watchable.


Reviewed by: Trigger
Date: 11/20/2001
Summary: 7/10 - shame I couldn't hear Stephen Chow talking.

Mad Monk kicks ass. This film is about a god who is challenged and sent to earth to change the lives of a beggar, a prostitute, and a killer. Stephen Chow plays the god and he's brilliant as usual. He doesn't fall in love in this film, though which (as a reviewer over at HKMDB speculated) is probably why it did poorly at the box office. I found it to be delightful and very funny. It ranks somewhere in the upper-middle of his films for me. It's not among his funniest, but certainly outclasses many of his other works. It's up there with Royal Tramp, Chinese Odyssey and King of Beggars.

Let me just say that no good DVD of this movie exists (that I'm aware of). This is all we've got though since it's the only DVD or VCD that actually has subtitles (so I'm told). The first problem with this DVD is that it's in a Mandarin dub - and who the hell wants to listen to Stephen Chow in Mandarin? If I only spoke Mandarin, I'd still want to hear it in Cantonese - I mean half of Stephen Chow's comedy is his voice. So I only found this film to be half as funny as I should have.

Another problem is the transfer - it looks widescreen, but it's cropped at the sides - you've seen them before - it looks like they were trying to compromise between pan & scan and OAR. Also - the picture jumps up and down - and in my mind I picture this old old transer reel that's all rickety and the film jostles around and the machine is in this dirty chicken plucking assembly line warehouse and people are yelling at each other and there's blood and feathers everywhere... that's what the transfer makes me think about.

Anyway - the picture jumps, but the subtitles don't (and neither do the end credits which start scrolling up the screen over the "black bars"!!?), even though they are burned-in. It's strange, but I've seen it a few other places before. The print is a bit dirty and scratchy cuz it was never restored, cleaned or properly cared for - however, since it did so poorly at the box office, it didn't look all that bad having not been run through the projector very many times.

I strongly recommend this film
However - I can't recommend this DVD because it sucks. The worst is not being able to hear Stephen Chow's voice - the transfer and subtitles would be forgiveable if they only used the original track. Sorry to talk about the DVD more than the film, but it really affected my enjoyment of the film.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: sarah
Date: 01/24/2000
Summary: costume fest

Mad Monk

I kinda like this one but I know why it flopped at the box-office. It was too cold. Sing Jai didn’t fall in love with anyone, so there was no emotional engine behind it. What I’d like to know is, is that really Sing Jai’s back in the shower scene?! He looks awfully cheeky so its probably a joke.
He is a kind hearted god trying to prove to heaven that humanity isnt really so bad.
To do this he has to reform a murderer, a beggar and a prostitute.
Wong Chow San is the beggar and he is always good news, although he looks a little uncomfortable at times. Maggie Cheung as the prostitute parodies herself and Sing Jai at the same time. Anita Mui is great as Kuan Yin and Ng Man Tat is even sillier than usual. The costumes are gorgeous. I particularly favour that monks outfit with the brown pointy hat and beads. Very saucy, and what is in that pipe he’s smoking? One of Sing Jai’s defining features is that he loves to dress up. All of his movies feature the wildest outfits and this one is no exception. He has managed to assimilate everything that is good about the whole period, chopsocky experience into to his movies. Waaah! He is expressing such contagious amazement of the wondrousness of the world, which is a rare talent indeed. The Beauty Queen scene at the end was most surreal as is the whole movie. Some of the clapping is a little ironic.


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A shoddy, underwhelming version of the "gods descend to earth as mortals" theme. Most likely a source of inspiration for Stephen Chow's later films, particularly "A Chinese Odyssey".

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Dragon Fighter, a petty god in heaven, is given the task ofdescending to earth and transforming three bad people: a prostitute, a beggar, and a killer.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]


Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

A spirit in Chinese heaven (Steven Chieu) bets everyone in his pantheon that he can redeem the lives of a prostitute (Maggie Cheung), a beggar (Tony Wong), and a villain. He incarnates, and fellow spirits drop in occasionally to help. In Chinese hell, a menacing creature signifying evil almost gains control of the universe, but doesn't. At the end, Steven Chieu becomes the head of the pantheon. Then, final credits roll over the nervous actors, who don't seem to have much to say to one another.

(2.5/4)



[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6