MOVIE REVIEW: KUNG FU JUNGLE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: TEDDY CHAN / SCREENPLAY: TEDDY CHAN, HO LEUNG LAU, TIN SHU MAK / STARRING: DONNIE YEN, BAOQIANG WANG, CHARLIE YEUNG / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Rocking up to a police station covered in blood and announcing, ‘I killed someone’ should be an arresting way to open a movie. However, Kung Fu Jungle falls at the first hurdle; director Teddy Chen’s far more comfortable with fight scenes than wringing any dramatic tension out of dialogue or performance.
A bloodied martial arts instructor, Hahou Mo (Yen), admits to murder in the first scene and then Kung Fu Jungle picks up with him three years later as he is serving his prison sentence for letting his fists get the better of him. When Hahou learns of the murder of a fellow kung fu master, he insists on seeing the detective in charge of the investigation. Offering his help and some inside information on who the killer is and who will be the next target, Hahou is released from prison to help catch the murderer. Fung has a score to settle with and is picking off martial arts exponents one by one, killing them in methods that each victim is renowned for their skill in. The first’s beaten to death with fists, the next kicked to death, and another’s killed by weapons. Hahou’s dubious alliance with the detective is made even more tenuous as when he goes missing after his first encounter with the handicapped but determined killer Fung.
As a piece of Hong Kong action cinema, Kung Fu Jungle is an enjoyable romp. Furious fists fly around, bones crunch and blood spatters. It’s got plenty for martial arts fans to enjoy. Donnie Yen is one of the best at what he does and he is more than matched by the spectacular Wang Baoqiang who excels as the lethal villain, giving a wonderfully OTT performance. His wild facial expressions perfectly complement his impressive fighting skills and when Kung Fu Jungle finally gets to the promised face-off between the pair, it certainly delivers.
Director Chen definitely knows his way around a fight scene, even if on occasion you wish there could be less of the choppy editing and more moments where the martial arts is allowed to breathe in long, uninterrupted takes. Kung Fu Jungle could also do with a bit more splatter, its villain being memorably determined to fight every opponent to the death but the really nasty stuff often being shied away from. Chen has years of experience in Hong Kong action cinema but he could still have taken some tips from the brutality of The Raid.
It’s the dramatic scenes where Kung Fu Jungle really loses the plot. Chen shoots it all like a glossy episode of CSI but the average performances are not helped at all by the annoyingly intrusive score. Apart from the odd stunning time lapse of Hong Kong and the mostly brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, it often feels sloppily edited, overly lit and over egged. Nevertheless, if you go into Kung Fu Jungle for the fights, you’ll agree with villain when half way through the climactic duel he states simply, ‘this is fun’. Also, Hong Kong cinema and martial arts fans will get a real kick out of the bountiful number of legendary cameos.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10