Review: KUNG FU JUNGLE 一个人的武林 (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Review: KUNG FU JUNGLE 一个人的武林 (2014)

A flawed but entertaining mix of thrilling police procedural and old-fashioned martial arts genre disguised as a contemporary action drama, KUNG FU JUNGLE is one of Donnie Yen's most satisfying movies to date.

After venturing into martial arts fantasies with THE MONKEY KING and ICEMAN this year, it's nice to see Donnie Yen returns to the contemporary action genre since 2013's ill-fated SPECIAL ID. This time, Yen reunites with director Teddy Chen for the second time with KUNG FU JUNGLE, following their successful collaboration in 2009's BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS. And thankfully, it's a relief that their follow-up proves to be another winner, especially after Yen's recent misfires such as the god-awful ICEMAN.


Donnie Yen plays Hahou Mo, a martial arts instructor for the Hong Kong police academy ends up sentenced to prison after accidentally killed someone in a fight. When a lethal killer named Fung Yu-Sau (Wang Baoqiang) starts killing off top martial arts experts one by one, Hahou offers to help the police, led by Luk Yuen-Sum (Charlie Young), to track him down in return for his freedom.

The premise is particularly fascinating, especially the way director Teddy Chen and screenwriters Lau Ho-Leung and Mak Tin-Shu uses the old-fashioned kung fu movie template -- the one which involved a fighter challenges different set of fighters to emerge as a No.1 martial arts expert in the wuxia world -- in exchange for a modern-day setting with more gritty approach. Equally successful is the intriguing blend of police procedural that focuses on the hunt against Fung Yu-Sau.

The action sequences, which blends Donnie Yen's signature ferocious close-combat skills with Yuen Bun and Yan Hua's graceful martial arts choreography, are impressively staged over the movements of fist, foot, grapple and weapon-fighting styles.

Donnie Yen is always known more as an accomplished action director rather than his erratic acting skills. While it's no surprise that Yen's energetic display of martial arts technique during some of his fighting sequences is top notch, I'm glad he also manages to pull off a solid dramatic performance as Hahou Mo. Wang Baoqiang, who previously made little impression playing a cheesy bad-guy performance in ICEMAN, finally manages to redeem himself with a captivating, yet feral performance as the psychotic Fung Yu-Sau. Not only that, he also impresses a lot with his nifty martial arts skill since he gets to fight the most in this movie.

Normally for a male-dominated Hong Kong action movie such as the one here starred Donnie Yen, the female roles are often sidelined with thankless performances. But not so in the KUNG FU JUNGLE, as Charlie Young delivers an engaging performance playing a no-nonsense cop as Luk Yuen-Sum. Michelle Bai is equally fine as Hahou Mo's love interest, Sinn Ying. She also proves her worth as a convincing fighter during her sword-fighting moment against Fung Yu-Sau, especially given the fact she has no prior martial arts background at all.

The grappling scene between Fung Yu-Sau and a fighter (Yu Kang) in the tattoo parlour; the sword-fighting scene between Fung Yu-Sau and a sword expert (Fan Siu-Wong) in the movie set; the extended final showdown between Hahou Mo and Fung Yu-Sau in the middle of a busy highway that begins with an impressive hand-to-hand combat, before they continue fighting using bamboo scaffolding poles; and the heartfelt end credits where the movie honours some of the most recognizable cast and crew from the past and present in the Hong Kong movie industry such as Jackie Chan, Lau Kar-Leung, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Mang Hoi, Kirk Wong, Soi Cheang, Andrew Lau, Dion Lam, Yuen Bun, Bruce Law, Yan Hua, Derek Kwok, David Chiang, and many more.

The pacing tends to lag over the course of the movie, while some of the storyline -- especially the one involved Fung's past with his dying wife -- are a bit too melodramatic. 

As much as I enjoyed the fighting scene during the climactic finale, but the inclusion of CGI -- such as the fighting scene between Hahou Mo and Fung Yu-Sau under the speeding trucks -- looks unconvincing and thus robbed some of the intensity in the movie.


Although the movie doesn't quite reaches the creative heights of SPL and to a certain extent, FLASH POINT, that Yen and director Wilson Yip have set the bar so high, KUNG FU JUNGLE remains a must-see for action-movie fans.

* This review is written courtesy from GSC press screening *

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