Shaolin is a story about warlords during early twentieth century China, their relationship with the Shaolin Buddhist temple, and its resident kung-fu monks. The movie’s title, “Shaolin”, is an overly generic name to describe a simple story. I went into this expecting almost a historical account of all things Shaolin. Nope. It’s just a completely fictional story.
It follows a somewhat standard formula: Warlords vie for power. Deceit and treachery occurs. Overthrown warlord goes to Shaolin temple for sanctuary, even though he treated them badly when he was in control. Ex-warlord learns the error of his ways. Buddha’s justice is served and the evil foreigners are repelled. Oh, and Jackie Chan is there for seemingly no reason. I’ll get back to that last point.
The movie Shaolin (I hate always having to say “the movie”) was released in 2011 with director Benny Chan. The main stars are the initial warlord Hou Chieh (actor Andy Lau), his first in-command Cao Man (actor Nicholas Tse), and an assortment of Shaolin monks who we really don’t get to know all to well.
Hou Chieh is at first portrayed as a really evil and paranoid guy. However, his paranoia is either misplaced or just not enough as the real enemy (and even more evil guy), Cao Man betrays Hou Chieh and his family.
In a desperate attempt to save his daughter’s life Hou Chieh goes to the Buddhist temple for help. While the monks fail to save his daughter, Hou Chieh gradually learns their peaceful (and yet kick-ass martial arts) ways. He also meets the monastery’s cook, Wudao, played by Jackie Chan. Wudao is a man who avoids the hardships of life outside the temple, although not really a monk himself. He offers some advice and help to Hou Chieh but not really anything that fits in with the movie. Jackie Chan’s scenes just seems wedged in there and are not important to the story.
Cao Man, now the new emo warlord that has partnered with the devil white man (of course), returns and he tries to destroy the monastery and all its residents. Kung-fu occurs. We are also treated to some classic Jackie Chan fight scene. Not having been trained as a kung-fu monk, Wudao uses his awesome cooking skills (and a giant spatula) to beat up some guys. I love watching Jackie Chan fight. He is a true vaudevillian performer. But again, this movie has a generally serious tone and Jackie just doesn’t fit in. It is clear that he was there to get butts in seats.
This was an enjoyable movie overall but there are certainly better ones. The fight scenes were performed and filmed well. If you are looking for a great kung-fu movie skip this one. If you want something with a light plot, check it out. The trailer probably makes it looks even better than it is.