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功夫之王 (2008)
The Forbidden Kingdom

Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 11/14/2011

Hemmm?. how do I exactly put this. THANK GOD someone gave me free tickets? or else? It?s not worth watching at all. Don?t even bother for a DVD/VCD/downloading. Just wait for the TV to show it. I couldn?t believe how Jackie Chan and Jet Li can agree to movie like this. Not to mention Yuen Woh Peng too. Yes, it has all the big names but totally weird. Some script and action just doesn?t make sense. Not to mention they practically mix all the chinese kung fu and style in one and have been fighting on and on for practically no reason. Practically just another movie to wow the westeners with all the asian kung fu.

Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 02/16/2009
Summary: More than meets the eye

A relatively large Hollywood budget with Jackie Chan and Jet Li working together, and Yuan Woo Ping doing choreography is a solid recipe for good martial arts action. And indeed, the martial arts aspects of this film do not disappoint. No, we do not get long/wide, long-take, Lau Kar-Leung-esque or acrobatic Venom-esque old-school-greatness (that we will never see again anyway)...but, rather, we get something of a mid-80's style Chan-esque free-form choreography that definitely has a throwback feel. Action-wise, it feels like a film done 15-20 years ago during Jackie and Jet's prime years. This is a good thing!

We have two tigers (Chan and Li) on the same mountain, which would normally be a problem, but they manage to make it all work reasonably well, in a somewhat lighthearted fashion.

But Jackie/Jet is really only a part of the story here...

Surgically removing the solid martial arts/action aspects of this film, what remains is interesting. There is a message here. While it is a message delivered cinematically in typical American crudity, it is one that this reviewer finds refreshingly atypical.

We start out with an average teenage boy in a modern setting fascinated with old school Hong Kong martial arts cinema. He apparently frequents a shop in south Boston that has a selection of martial arts DVDs, and refers to a number of Shaw Brothers titles by name. The very old Chinese shopkeeper is rather amused with the boy's fascination with "Hong Kong phooey" and accurately points out the boy's interest in kung fu is to become a fighting hero and "get the girls". And indeed, at the heart of most teenage boy's fantasies lies some sort of expedient toward sexual gratification. Being the "kung fu master" and defeating everyone else and becoming alpha male results in getting all the girls. And while primal sexual satisfaction may be at the heart of matters with teenage boys, sexual satisfaction and sexual conquest are rather different matters, and indeed delineate something very important here.

In this boy's character, we have someone who seems to be interested in more than kung fu and access to the the pretty girls therein. No, he seems to be genuinely interested in things from that mysterious Chinese universe. He spots an item in the shopkeeper's back room and is able to identify its design to a particular Chinese dynasty, as well as realize that it is something important. The shopkeeper then reveals that the important item does not belong to him and needs to be returned to its rightful owner.

After a scene with the boy interacting with his female peers inquiring as to his kung fu prowess (reinforcing my earlier point), and one in which he is confronted by the alpha males in his peer group, the boy and the item embark on the fantasy aspect of the film--a quest to return the item to its rightful (and legendary) owner.

Normally, at this point, with American cinema, obscene levels of Asian racism and colonialism ensue. And I suspect for some that watched the film, at this point, things started to disappoint as normally one would expect the boy to begin taking over and prove his American "superiority" over his "inferiors".

But that did not happen here.

The boy is thoroughly humiliated. He is laughed at and ridiculed. He does not know a word of Chinese (while everyone else knows English). He has his ass completely kicked and (p)owned by the white-haired assassin (Li Bing Bing). And he develops a more than superficial relationship and connection with the comely Golden Sparrow (Crystal Liu)--a beautiful Asian teenager--that he never kisses, nor in any way sexually conquers. Once again, atypical.

Early in the adventure, the "Drunken Immortal" (played by Jackie Chan) asked the boy something in Mandarin, to which the boy impertinently responds "I do not understand what you are saying", to which J.C. responds (in English) "that is because you are not listening!". After this, everyone speaks to him in English, while others speak to each other in Mandarin--a pretty strong statement about the uniquely American lack of foreign languages, and general cultural ignorance.

Ultimately, in this dreamlike adventure, the boy is participant and spectator, and plays a secondary role to the real heroes--the Drunken Master, the Monk and the Golden Sparrow--the Asian leads.

This may be unprecedented. But it points to something refreshing. It sends a healthy message to young boys about the mysterious Chinese culture that they come to know through the universal language of choreographed martial arts via Hong Kong cinema: it sends the message of cross-cultural cooperation; it sends the message of respect for another culture; it sends the message that being American does not reflexively equate to superiority.

The secondary message of the film is one of "Kung Fu" being allegory for self-realization of the master inside yourself. In other words, mastering your avocation or profession, and the relentless pursuit of attaining perfection through hard work. Another positive and healthy message for teenagers.

This is a solid movie--but ultimately one for teenagers; particularly for boys.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 01/31/2009
Summary: Why did they have to hollywood-nise this movie for

OH Hollywood,always thinking they know better. They just had to add in a american guy just to waste screen time when all the focus should be on jackie and Jet.

Apart from these 3 characters, the other characters are dramatically under developed.

The story feel standard but there is a nice twist near the end.

The action is better than expected.

When two big asian stars come together, expectations are always going to be very high and unfortauntely it let me down severely.

Still its a watchable movie, if you lower your expectations

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 10/09/2008
Summary: Jackie, Jet, and Wo-Ping !!

Jackie Chan and Jet Li join with Master Yuen Wo-Ping in a fantastically made Hollywood escapade that should keep their fans happy. I thought this was real good on the big screen, but I began to think maybe I was caught up in the beauty of the CinemaScope screen. Well now that the DVD is out, I’m happy to say that this is well worth the price of admission. The film has many nice touches included by Disney’s Rob Minkoff who you can tell is huge fan of martial arts films.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 09/11/2008

Hollywood adapts "Journey to the West" hiring a dream team of world renown filmmakers from Hong Kong's golden age to play with a budget foreign to even the former colony's biggest personalities. The problem is "The Forbidden Kingdom" is every bit as Western as the studio that backed it from the film's "Wizard of Oz"-like plotting (replete with a sniveling Boston teen as our guide) -- to an over reliance on Hollywood aesthetics -- to bouts of prophetic dialogue out of the mouths of Asian characters that could have only been dreamt up by a Hollywood screen writer. Still, there's little at stake here: despite Jackie Chan and Jet Li appearing on screen together for the first time in both of their equally storied careers the two martial arts icons have put their best years behind them and their time spent together in "The Forbidden Kingdom" is painless but forgettable.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 07/17/2008
Summary: crouching tiger, spanking monkey...

jason tripitikas (michael angarano) lives in boston and is obsessed with kung-fu films. one day, after visiting old hop's (jackie chan) pawn shop to buy some dvds, a gang of local thugs drag him back there to rob hop. after hop is shot, he gives jason a staff, which he had been admiring earlier, and tells him to return it to its rightful owner. jason takes the staff, fleeing the gang, but soon finds himself cornered, before falling from a rooftop: when he comes round, he finds himself in china. a few hundred years in the past...

carrying the staff is drawing unwanted attention to jason and he soon finds himself being chased by soldiers. luckily for him, lu yan (jackie chan) the drunken immortal, comes to his rescue, before telling him the story of the monkey king (jet li) and his battle against the jade warlord (collin chou), who imprisoned him in stone. only jason's staff can be used to free the monkey king and save the kingdom from the tyranny of the jade warlord, so the pair, along with golden sparrow (liu yi-fei) and a silent monk (jet li), set off to free the monkey king...

so, it finally happened. jackie chan and jet li in the same film, going head to head: it's a shame it didn't happen fifteen years ago in hong kong but, like most people, i'm just glad that it has.

putting jackie and jet to one side, the film is a pretty standard children's, adventure, fantasy film; it has a central protagonist, an outsider, who is thrown into an environment where he must flourish and, ultimately, blossom into someone who triumphs against the odds and, upon returning to his real life, is better equipped to deal with the challenges that face him. pretty standard stuff.

still, the fact that this film is written by a fan of hong kong films, martial arts and chinese culture is in evidence. most obviously, the film makes references to 'journey to the west' (the monkey king, tripitikas / tripitaka, etc etc etc), as well as classic hong kong films (such as 'come drink with me'; liu yi-fei's character has the same name as its central character and she invites the jade warlord to 'come drink with me'), there's plenty of talk of cinematic martial arts (no shadow kick, buddha's palm, iron elbow), li bing bing's white haired assassin bears more than a passing resemblance to 'the bride with white hair' and the opening credits are made up of a, very nicely animated, montage featuring classic film posters. all good stuff...

there's also a sense of comedy and melodrama which seems to be deeply rooted in hong kong cinema and dialogue, which swings between the contents of fortune cookies and reworkings of bruce lee interviews.

perhaps more importantly, though, the martial arts sequences are choreographed by yuen woo-ping (who also has an executive producer's credit). having been a pioneering force in martial arts cinema and having worked with both jackie and jet over the past couple of decades, yuen woo-ping is someone who realises the responsibility that comes with realising a confrontation that many thought may never materialise.

so, what does this all add up to?

if you are a child, you'll probably love this. it is a fantasy adventure, in a pretty classic mould: there's humour, excitement and spectacle. if you're an adult who likes kung fu movies, then you'll probably like it a lot, enjoying the aforementioned references. if, you just like action films, with no real interest in kung fu, then you may enjoy the martial arts sequences but, ultimately, not get on too well with the rest of the film.

personally, i thought it was a lot of fun, but i like kids films and martial arts films, so it wasn't too much of a shock. i didn't mind michael angarano, who managed to look like he was, at the very least, a proficient fighter by the end of the film. li bing bing was wonderful as the white haired assassin and collin chou made a great baddie. still, this was all about jackie and jet.

jackie was really good; it's a role that nicely fills the middle-ground between his performances in hong kong and american films and his comedic timing and delivery were spot on. jet was also good; nicely flitting between his serious and, less frequently seen these days, comic sides. both of them looked great and, when put together, watching them come together on screen was a treat. like i already said, it would've been something altogether different if this had been fifteen years ago, but the results were still impressive: a good length, nicely mixed fighting styles, high energy, ground and wire-work, with a couple of weapons thrown in for good measure. all good...

good stuff, but not for everyone...

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/26/2008
Summary: Throwaway plot provides excuse for delicious action

The beginning of the movie really sets the expectation: a White boy wakes up to the sound of the Monkey King TV series playing on his television, his wall full of beautiful posters of old school kung fu films, including such Shaw Brothers classics as The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, Legendary Weapons of China, and Return of the One-Armed Swordsman. It's immediately clear that kung fu will dominate the rest of the film, and that expectation is fulfilled quite nicely. However, the plot is thin, formulaic, and inconsequential. It's just an excuse to crank up the action. Not a great movie, but worth watching b/c of the JetLi-JackieChan collaboration.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 04/21/2008
Summary: Entering the gate of no-gate

After reading a brief synopsis of the film with the film I knew not to go into the film with high expectations. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the film was much pretty much what I had envisioned with a few notable exceptions. Much halloo has been made of the fact that this is the first film with Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Both have become international superstars, both have an excellent repertoire with martial arts, both have played Wong Fei Hung (Jackie Chan in Drunken Master (1978) and Jet Li in Once Upon A Time In China (1991)), but neither have the ever appeared in a film together. The reasons are sundry and probably have to do with past egos, but better late than never (Spielberg, it is not too late to hire either one of these actors). Though imagine what could have been made in the late 80s with these two.

What had me most concerned with this film was that it is centered on a milquetoast Hong Kong Shaw Brother's film fanatic Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano: Sky High (2005)) who spends his time buying bootleg VCD/DVDs in Chinatown and being bullied by weenie local thugs. Though this might hit the demographic of many martial art film fans, I was ambivalent about its use of a focal point away from Jackie or Jet. Both of these actors can carry a film and the insertion of Tripitikas felt superfluous and relegated this movie to young teen-movie status. His performance was OK though, just nothing that special.

Tripitikas visits his normal Chinatown shop (mentioning Ten Tigers from Kuangtung (1980)) owned by a raspy voiced Old Hop (Jackie Chan in old-man makeup; thank god he did not become a Mr. Miyagi clone) and notices an exquisite staff. Old Hop states that he is waiting to return it to its rightful owner. Later, Jason acquiesces to the gang (about as scary as The Backstreet Boys) and helps them rob Hop. Things go badly as Hop gets shot and just as Jason is about to die he gets transported into a different realm (through the gate with no gate).

Luckily, this is where the story gets more interesting partially because less emphasis is put on the teen and more on the environment and new characters. Jason meets Lu Yan (Jackie Chan: though this character is more like the King of Beggars aka Beggar So played most famous by Simon Yuen in Drunken Master (1978)) whose uses drunken kung fu. Jason learns that he must return the staff to free the Monkey King (Jet Li) who was tricked into being turned to stone by the Jade War Lord (Ngai Sing: Fearless, Flash Point (2007)) and caused 500 years of unhappiness under his realm. However, there is a prophecy of an outsider who will return the staff and restore order (yes a chosen one, guess who that is). Ultimately, the chosen one team up with Golden Swallow (Liu Yi-Fei: yes the same name as the character in Come Drink with Me) who is also out for revenge against Jade War Lord who ruthless killed her family and a wandering monk (Jet Li).

I enjoyed the film for what is was. A nondescript lead does not help with the film as a whole, but there is much to like. The action choreography of Yuen Woo-ping (Hero, Drunken Master) is quite good partially because he has worked before with Jet Li and Jackie Chan. He knows exactly their aging limitations and makes the wire-work look beautiful. The fight scene between Jackie and Jet is a must watch for action fans and exquisitely beautiful. When comedy was applied it worked well. Two of these scenes stood out for me and had the audience laughing with my favorite of the two is when Jackie and Jet used Jason as an unwilling puppet while both masters trying to teach him gung fu. It is nice seeing Jet Li have a fun time with his characters. The other highlight of the movie is the penultimate fight scene between just about everybody including the Monkey King and a very pissed off hired killer -- the White Haired Assassin (Lee Bing-Bing) She is an homage to The Bride With White Hair (1993) which is also mentioned earlier in the film.

The film is a hodge-podge of Asian stories with the main plot is taken from the Ming Dynasty story "Journey to the West" (published anonymously and is foretold with an showing early in the film of, I believe but not positive since I was partially distracted at the time, Cave of the Silken Web (1967)) and put in a Wizard of Oz (1939) outline. There are some problems with the cohesion of the story, a nondescript lead and several plot problems exist, but it does not distract too much unless you are adamant about your adaptations being faithful. Rob Minkoff's direction (Stuart Little (1999), Haunted Mansion (2003)) is good, but I would have liked a more action-oriented director helming this project. I think most martial art film fanatics will be slightly disappointed by this film, but many will enjoy this movie for what it is – entertainment with a couple of excellent choreographed martial art scenes.

Let us hope that Jet Li and Jackie Chan get together again and get to be the main characters.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 04/20/2008

For Hong Kong film fans, one of the all-time dream match-ups has long been Jackie Chan versus Jet Li. Well, now those prayers have been answered -- in a way. The Forbidden Kindgom was done probably about ten years too late, so this isn't going to blow the roof off of anything, but it's still a solid movie that should please fans of both Li and Chan.

The story is pretty silly rubbish, with it centering around a white kid from modern-day Boston (Michael Angarano) who gets sent back to ancient China after grabbing a magical staff in a pawn shop. It turns out the staff belongs to the mystical Monkey King, who is being held prisoner by the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). So, after being trained by a drunken master (Jackie Chan) and a stoic monk (Jet Li), the kid heads off to save the day,

Actually, for how goofy and improbable the story is, the script is actually quite good for a movie of this type. There are a few inside references to other movies that'll bring a few laughs, and Chan and Li's bickering back and forth is actually quite entertaining, instead of the annoyance it could have been. Once you get past nitpicks like people speaking in both Chinese and English, but everyone being able to understand each other, The Forbidden Kindgom's exposition becomes quite enjoyable.

Which is good, because the fight scenes here are disappointingly really nothing special. Don't get me wrong; there's nothing bad about them at all, and I'm sure newer and/or younger viewers will get a kick out of them. But this is all stuff that's been done many times before, especially by Yuen Woo-Ping. In the face of more "serious" martial arts films like Flash Point, Yuen's floaty style seems somewhat out of place in today's world.

Overall, though, it should be noted that The Forbidden Kindgom is really a kid's movie, and it succeeds at that. Sure, it's not something on the level of Drunken Master II or Fist of Legend, but it is an enjoyable enough way to spend an afternoon, and perhaps introduce somebody to the world of martial arts movies.

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 04/20/2008

We caught "Forbidden Kingdom" at a matinee today. A few notes:

The fight between Jackie Chan and Jet Li was pretty good--too much CGI or whatever it is when there is flying through the air without wires--but they can both still really sell it.

Jackie Chan didn't really do his Drunken Kung Fu much at all. Mainly he drank wine and beat people up although once in a while beat them up while holding a wine flask. But nothing like "Drunken Master" and the ones that followed.

Jet Li as playing a monk who is a kung fu master was terrific casting since he showed pretty well in "Unleashed" ("Danny the Dog" in some markets) that he doesn't have the training to be a dramatic film actor.

Collin Chou was a terrific bad guy--he plays the Jade Warlord--and does everything one would expect including killing the bearer of bad tidings, ordering large scale slaughter, outrageously good overacting.

Lee Bing-Bing should be in more movies. Fifty a year would be about right. The magical white hair added nothing to her presence but the 20 foot bullwhip was a good touch.

They didn't need to go through all that trouble to free the Monkey King from his prison of stone because one look from Liu Yi-Fei could melt a rock.

Michael Angarano seems to be a generic white teenage or early 20s actor. There are probably 100 actors who could have done as well but he didn't do a bad job. He was just there.

The score is outstanding--I would buy it before I would buy a DVD of the movie.

Peter Pau made everything look great. After shooting "The Promise" and "The Bride With White Hair" this must have been a walk in the park.

Yuen Wo-Ping is without peer. Having done seven movies each with Jet Li and Jackie Chan he knew exactly how to choreograph everything for them. Even with an executive producer credit he is still listed in advertising materials and the credits as Woo-ping Yuen.

The tough guys who terrorized Jason at the beginning and end of the movie would last about two hours in any really tough part of town--I don't know about Boston's South End, where the framing story is set, but they would be chewed up and spit out on the South side of Chicago, a place with which I am very familiar.

Rob Minkoff might be a hack but with Peter Pau shooting and Yuen Wo-Ping taking care of the action all he had to do was frame the shots and keep things moving.

Reviewer Score: 7