April 18, 2008

THE SPECIAL PURPOSE:

MASH OF THE TITANS: Jet Li and Jackie Chan partner as heroes in a Hollywood film that respects Hong Kong action cinema : a review of The Forbidden Kingdom Directed by Rob Minkoff (Armond White, 4/17/08, NY Press)

Rather than infantilizing HK action cinema or subordinating it to the needs of Western audiences (as if providing life-lessons to Jason made HK culture significant), the artists behind The Forbidden Kingdom respect Chan and Li’s artistry. In the neighborhood store where Jason buys rare kung-fu DVDs, the old Chinese proprietor teases him, “You watch too much Hong Kong Phooey. Crouching Tiger, Spanking Monkey”—a joke on how an authentic pop culture has been trivialized and misunderstood in the West. This won’t be a dull-witted genre parody like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1993 The Last Action Hero: It’s a tribute. [...]

The many worthy images include the group of misfits walking along the snaking crests of sand dunes—vistas that pan from mountains to a valley of blossoming trees. In one fight, Jade War Lord’s (Collin Chou) soldiers ride through tree blooms, which is an epiphany worthy of Shakespeare’s Birnam Wood. The climactic Five Elements temple battle becomes a mini epic. Li Bingbing as the White-Haired Witch shows sensational aggression; her clawing poses give extravagant definition to cat-fighting. Yet it’s Chan and Li, older and slightly less quicksilver, who fulfill the special purpose of HK cinema. They fight heroically—with hope of faith, fairness, goodness and triumphant justice.

The Forbidden Kingdom isn’t one of the greatest HK epics, but it’s a fan’s delight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2008 6:43 AM
Comments

We saw it this afternoon and enjoyed it very much. It's nice when the good guys win. The only annoying part was that the goons who shoot the old man and beat up the kid at the beginning were wearing large prominent crucifixes.

First movie we've seen in months.

Posted by: erp at April 18, 2008 5:25 PM
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