Writer: Edith YeohWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Little Big Soldier”, “14 Blades”
The concern for director Benny Chan's 'He Sui Pian' (Chinese New Year films) is that some might view it to be either too violent or too heavy with emotions especially its release is just in time for the festive season. However, this reviewer thinks that the more significant problem lies within the survival rate among other more heavyweight contenders like Eric Tsang's "I Love Hong Kong". However, in a much fair comparison, last year's "14 Blades" left behind a promising imprint at the box-office despite its dark and solemn genre.
For the record, "Shaolin" is definitely not another remake of Jet Li's first movie debut in 1982's "The Shaolin Temple". It is instead a drastic attempt to retell the stories about Shaolin monks and its temple during China's counter-revolutionary that leads to the temple's destruction under the hands of ruthless soldiers and the monks driven away to the mountain area.
Director Benny Chan makes it a point to shoot his movie picture-perfect, by including so many details that include a person's costumes, jewelleries and overall set designs as well as other fine detailing. The end result is one of the many commendable aspects of the movie. It is such a rare occasion to see a filmmaker completed its story-telling without leaving any parts hanging. The plot is thorough, easy to follow and straight to the point. This reviewer rather prefers the director's choice to finish one scene before moving into the next to avoid confusion and to tell a more compact story. The director often uses different lighting and shadow to create the mood of the story. A lot of time the lighting effects further brings out the mood and emotion of a scene.
Language is not a big issue in "Shaolin" though it can pose as a nuisance for some especially when characters of native Chinese speaking actors are dubbed in Cantonese, while non-Chinese speakers like Caucasian could be heard speaking in flawed Mandarin.
Cast performance of the movie is top notch. Nicholas Tse plays a surprisingly convincing antagonist where Tse waste no time in convincing the audience who the real villain is. On the other hand, Andy Lau's acting deserves no less as well despite it seems rather cliche for such a handsome actor to play as a plain-looking monk. One of the most interesting scenes the audience should keep a lookout for would definitely the moment Lau's character cuts off his locks in a fit of anger. Apart from that, it is rather sad to see that mainland actress, Fan Bing Bing is given limited screen time. Nevertheless her appearance is memorable throughout the whole movie.
All in all, "Shaolin" makes a pleasant viewing experience to some, if not all moviegoers. The story is simple with the right balance of drama, action and humour. Highly recommended for this year's Chinese New Year movie selection.Cinema Online, 24 January 2011