Kung Fu Jungle (2014) Film Review from the 58th Annual London Film Festival, a movie directed by Teddy Chan, starring, Donnie Yen, Charlie Yeung, Baoqiang Wang, Bing Bai, Alex Fong, Yu Kang, Yu Xing, and Siu-Wong Fan.
The film tells the story of an imprisoned Martial Arts master who is released from prison on the promise that he will help the police capture a maniac who is killing martial artists all over the city. What ensues is a 100 minute action heavy / dialogue-lite film that is best served as an advertisement for learning martial arts.
At first glances the film appears to be a run of the mill police procedural. It is the action packed scenes that separate it from the pack and give the film its unique look. Donnie Yen plays the lead, martial arts instructor Hahou Mo. Yen also acts as the action director, helping set-up some of the film’s astounding fight sequences.
Despite some fantastic action sequences and a fairly interesting story, the film still manages to fall far short of expectations. This film oozes mediocrity and at times feels like a light-hearted, spoof film rather than a drama. The film seems to lack believable actors. Most expressions, from fear to nervousness seem to be overacted and unbelievable. The score doesn’t help either, with some scenes being drowned out by unnecessarily dramatic music to accentuate the characters’ emotions.
For instance, the investigation carried out by the police regarding the serial killer seems way too simplistic. Evidence seems to just fall onto their laps, and even the testimonies given to them by witnesses seem very easy. It feels like the dialogue is only there to fill time till another action scene comes around.
Perhaps my assessment of the film is a little harsh. Though the film is far from unpredictable, I believe the main draw of this film is its action scenes. In that regard, the film does manage to deliver something quite special. There are some truly beautiful fight scenes, including a sword fight on a movie set, a fist fight at a tattoo parlour, and the final fight during the last third of the film.
Kung Fu Jungle is a film best enjoyed if you enter the cinema with an open mind. If you’re searching for a dramatic thriller that will keep you guessing till the very end, then this film is not for you. The story is painfully predictable and the characters lack any real sort of development. The director seems to have forgone character growth in an attempt to add more action into the film, which just ends up making the whole film feel disjointed.
Director Teddy Chan’s love of Hong Kong action cinema is evident throughout the film, for example scenes from Jackie Chan’s 1968 film Drunken Master can be seen playing on TV’s in the background. There are also several cameos in the film from some of Hong Kong cinema’s legends, such as Gong-Fu veteran David Chiang.
Overall, the film was mildly interesting to watch. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the fight sequences; of which there were many. The film may not appeal to everyone but I’m sure it will be successful, very much due to their loyal fan-base.
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