Stanley Tong has directed Jackie Chan in five movies thus far and produced more. Their paths are linked, whether that’s a good thing or not, we’re about to find out as Jackie Chan returns with Kung Fu Yoga.
I may have mentioned it, once or twice, but I am a huge Jackie Chan fan. I have been since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. It has always been a struggle for others to get what I enjoy so much, I’ve always been teased about being a fan. In the last few years, I have to say, it’s got harder and harder for me to keep calling myself a fan.
If ever a man needed help or better management when it comes to selecting scripts, it’s Jackie Chan. Some years ago, he announced to the world that he was giving up starring in action movies and wanted to be taken seriously as an actor like Robert De Niro. He has proved that he can act, he was outstanding in the Karate Kid remake, the best thing in it by a country mile.
There’s hope that forthcoming movies such as The Foreigner (due for release late 2017) will help him achieve his goal. For now however, he seems intent on starring in the sorts of films he made a name for himself with. However, these films just don’t cut it these days, mainly because the best films he made a name for himself with, where the ones he wrote and directed, and he hasn’t done either since 2012.
This brings us back round to Kung Fu Yoga. Kung Fu Yoga’s story will be familiar to any Jackie Chan fans out there. He plays an archaeology professor, the best in China, who is asked by an Indian professor, Disha Patani (Loafer, M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story), to help her find some lost treasure. The journey sees them travel from ice caves in Tibet, to Dubai and Indian temples with some helpers.
Chan has been in these sorts of films countless times, including ones that have had a heavy international cast. I’m sorry to report that Kung Fu Yoga is no different from most stuff Chan has been involved with over the last couple of years.
The directing is terrible – all missed action, un-needed slow-mo, and speeded up footage in some instances – the writing isn’t much better. It’s either long drawn out monologues about some god or other and why it’s important to something or other, who cares? Or it’s god awful one-liners the likes of which we haven’t heard since Arnie was killing people in Commando.
Then we get to the CGI. Always a sour point for Chinese films, it’s really quite spectacularly terrible here. The opening sequence is all CGI. It features, what’s supposed to be, a young Jackie Chan, fighting in an ancient war with elephants and vast armies. Only, the graphics look like they are from an early version of Sonic The Hedgehog. Then, during the film, we get CGI car chases, CGI animals and more. All are bad, all are superfluous, all could have been done better or the script re-wrote to take them out.
It’s not all terrible. Kung Fu Yoga has moments of Chan reliving his youth. You get the sense, with some polish, it could have worked. There are some funny moments. Well, ok, there’s one in particular which had me laughing out loud, it is Chan as we knew him, it is Tong as we knew him (it’s the fight scene in India, a series of repeated stick-hits on the bad guy), it’s fleeting, it’s not enough.
These are interesting times for Chan fans. Ignoring the, very possibly painful, follow ups of Rush Hour 4, Shanghai Dawn and The Karate Kid 2 (why?). Chan has: Five Against A Bullet from writer Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, The Grey), an interesting sounding Russian production, Journey to China, starring Arnie, Charles Dance and Rutger Hauer(!), The Lego Ninjago Movie and the aforementioned The Foreigner.
I have high-hopes that at least one puts him on the path to where he wants to go. I don’t want to remember Chan for films like this. I want to remember him for films like Police Story, Project A, Drunken Master Part II and, most of all, I want to look forward to a Jackie Chan film coming out once again.