Shaolin - Collector'S Edition [Blu-Ray]
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In a young Republic of China, where greedy warlords fuel a period of war and strife, Hou Jie (Andy Lau) arrogantly shows no mercy to his enemies seeking refuge with the benign and compassionate Shaolin monks. After unscrupulously killing a wounded enemy, Hou Jie pays a terrible price for his actions and is forced to seek refuge in the same Shaolin Monastery he blatantly disrespected. Hou Jie s traitorous second-in-command Cao Man (Nicholas Tse) continues where the once-warlord left off, betraying his country and his own people. Hou Jie must adapt to Shaolin principles to stop the monster he created.
Based loosely on the 1982 martial arts epic Shaolin Temple, which helped to mint Jet Li as a star, this Hong Kong blockbuster from Benny Chan stars Andy Lau as a battle-weary warlord who finds refuge and then solace among the monks of a Shaolin temple. Set during the tumult of early Republican China, the story unfolds as Lau's warlord usurps his rivals, but at the cost of his daughter's life and his wife's loyalty. His spirit crushed, he decides to atone for his violent past by joining a Shaolin order (which counts Jackie Chan, in a glorified cameo, as its cook). Lau's path to enlightenment is cast into doubt when he discovers that his former second-in-command (Nicholas Tse, in an enjoyably overripe performance) has enslaved the local population and forced them to unearth relics in order to pay for greater weapons. Things naturally come to a head between Lau and Tse, but the film is less concerned with sprawling martial arts battles than the emotional conflicts between and within its major players. Honor, familial loyalty, remorse, and pursuit of spiritual wholeness are cornerstones of Hong Kong action films, but the depth of the performances and screenplay (by Alan Yuen) lends rich nuances to the subjects, often at the expense of adding an extra fight scene to the picture. That's perhaps a good thing, as martial arts choreographer Corey Yuen's usual pyrotechnics are hobbled somewhat by his leads, who are fine actors but only modest fighters, leaving the firepower to wushu champion Wu Jing as a Shaolin elder. Chan's formidable talents are used to underscore his comic contributions to the film, and as such, are only mildly entertaining. That's also how most martial arts fans will view Shaolin, though those who value theme as well as action may find it a frequently thoughtful diversion. The Blu-ray collector's edition features a gallery of deleted scenes (mostly extended versions of scenes in the theatrical cut) and trailers, as well as a pair of by-the-books featurettes on the film's production. Slightly more interesting are a handful of interviews with the principals, which touch on the picture's historical basis and the '82 Li film, among other subjects. --Paul GaitaSee all Product Description
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This movie is beyond excellent. Andy Lau has the lead role and carries it effortlessly. Jackie Chan's role is minor in comparison but memorable. Nicholas Tse plays a pitch-perfect role as Lau's protege that learns ruthlessness and lust for power at his master's knee and karma comes back to bite Lau pretty darn hard. When Lau loses everything, he finds himself taken in at the Shaolin temple and learns what forgiveness and redemption really mean.
Of course, it wouldn't be a good kung fu movie without some fighting, so the bad guys have to come defile the temple and the monks must defend it from Tse and his cohorts. We are treated to some truly amazing and wonderful martial arts fighting here, right down to the littlest monks. And Chan the cook teaches the bad guys a thing or two about how to roll dough. Dramatic, action-packed, humorous, touching and heart-warming all come to mind when I think of this movie. It is destined to be a classic.
Set in the early 20th century, shortly after the collapse of imperial reign, China's young republic is threatened by warring warlords eager to carve out their own territories. One such is the prideful, ruthless General Hou Jie (Andy Lau) who had just conquered the town of Dengfeng, in Henan. But uneasy drapes the mantle of power, and when one plays the game of thrones, expect the unexpected. Hou Jie, concerned with an ally's true intentions, plots to destroy him, except that he himself is double-crossed. Barely escaping with his life, Hou Jie seeks the sanctuary of the Shaolin temple, which is sort of cheeky, since this is the very same temple he had ridiculed days before. But when one plummets from such lofty heights, one must simply lump it. Hou Jie reflects on the evil he has committed and vows to attain a monk's serenity, never mind that, days before, he had picked up the temple's sign and sneeringly scrawled "is no big deal" after its declaration: "The Birthplace of Martial Arts."
This isn't a Jackie Chan vehicle. Jackie does have a part, except that, now in his mid-fifties, it may be that his action lead days are on the wane. SHAOLIN is a serious drama more so than it is an action film, and Jackie provides the much-needed levity. To quote the seldomly quotable Steven Seagal, Jackie in this film is "just a cook." But his Shaolin temple cook plays a pivotal role in Hou Jie's transition from cruel warlord to tranquil monk.
SHAOLIN is loosely based on 1982's THE SHAOLIN TEMPLE, the classic what debuted some teenager named Jet Li. Except that Andy Lau isn't an accomplished wushu master like Jet Li. But he IS an accomplished actor, and director Benny Chan plays to his strengths. SHAOLIN is character- and story-driven and the fighty fights that crop up spool naturally off story development. That's not to say that the action sequences aren't spectacular, because they very much are jaw-dropping stuff, gravity-defying stuff. Two highlights are the Shaolin children springing into action and Jackie Chan's one fighting showcase which makes inventive use of cooking utensils. There is also a harrowing nighttime carriage chase by the cliffside that is brilliantly executed and damn intense.
Awesomely, the real-life, more than 1500 years old Shaolin Temple gave this film its blessing. And with the film crew having erected a full-sized temple replica, the weight of revered history is palpable. The story lends gravity and sense of place, and you believe these monks on camera, and their belief in their principles and their righteousness. Even though SHAOLIN focuses predominantly on the deposed General, it blocks out screen time for the supporting actors. I really liked the two headstrong young monks who agonize over the monastery's dwindling supplies - because Shaolin had been taking in starving refugees - and they resort to covert Robin Hood tactics. I wish that this sub-plot had gone on longer. But these benevolent outlaws don't escape the observant eye of the Senior Brother, another character I enjoyed. I will say that the gorgeous Fan Bingbing, who plays Hou Jie's wife, is criminally underused.
Meditations on Shaolin philosophies such as turning the other cheek and the futility of violence - and the selfless grace to help a fellow man for no reason other than to help him - color the narrative, and even when the film's second half dissolves into a series of brutal action set pieces, the theme of redemption courses thru to the end. Buddha gets praised a lot, which is fine.
The nits are ripe, just right for picking: There's a nationalistic streak. Maybe someday, China will make a martial arts film without portraying foreign white devils as utter tools. But that's not today, and not in this movie. And listening to these treasure-hunting Brits spout off the same old tired dialogue may draw snickers. One of the harder selling points is the film's contention that Hou Jei, in such a brief span of time, could rise to a prominent leadership role within the temple hierachy. Of course, I'm assuming that not much time had elapsed. The film doesn't really make this clear. Still, you cannot fault Andy Lau's skillful performance. He's so convincing as the cruel General that at some point I expected him to sacrifice his own family on the altar of self-interest, and yet he's equally credible when he converts to Shaolin and sheds his old self. His young daughter goes a long ways in humanizing him with one simple laughing scribble: "Daddy likes to fight." It takes Hou Jie one step closer to attaining Zen. But it's a bloody, roundabout way.
This is a beautifully made film with a compelling story and profound meaning. There is everything in this film: realistic kung-fu actions, human greed/power, undeniable love for family, and seeing an absolutely cold-hearted person becoming all heart. Andy Lau was the star so was Jackie Chan (as special guest) and other supporting actors. One can argue this is a drama-first (my believe), and action second.
The package comes with a blu-ray and a DVD. blu-ray comes with two Chinese audio tracks (5.1 and stereo), and two English audio tracks (5.1 and stereo). The main menu says the Chinese is Cantonese dialect, but both tracks are Mandarin. There is subtitle for English and Spanish as well. The English 5.1 seems to have better fidelity and decoding to all 5.1 speakers than the Chinese 5.1 version overall. The English dialog is translated well. The English subtitle is slightly different, but also translated very well. This is pretty rare. Kudos to the translators.
The Full HD (1080p) is clean, detailed, sharp but properly softened as needed in the right places.
As far as special features on the blu-ray, the deleted scenes are LONG and have pretty interesting "side stories". Many are actually quite significant to properly develop characters and bring out the strength of the overall story, but I can understand the movie would've been close to 3 hours long! There are also two international trailers.
The second disc is a DVD, and it contains additional bonus materials. There are interviews of the cast and director, and behind the scene clips and documentaries. The interviews are in Mandarin and Cantonese dialects (no English).
This movie isn't non-stop action, but that's actually what I like about it. I hate when action movies have pointless action scenes. Action is cool, but viewers need a reason to be watching the action. I want to use Hero (with Jet Li) as an example of pointless action. Sure, it's wonderfully fun to watch performers fly through the air; but if you know who's going to win, then there's no tension or reason for the fight. Action scenes are most effective when they advance the plot or develop the characters. Each action sequence in Shaolin serves to push the story foward, or demonstrate the way characters are changing in personality.
Spoiler alert - people die in the fight sequences, and it's very important for Shaolin. It's not that I love watching death, but when these characters die, the plot changes. Each action scene features plot twists. Every character death has an emotional effect on the other characters in the movie, and the characters then use that information to make new decisions. This movie is serious, smart, and emotional.
One critique: Jackie Chan's appearance in the movie is actually jarring. He's the comic relief in what is a pretty dark movie with a decent amount of murder. I love Jackie Chan, and his dialogue is good, but his fight scenes are standard Jackie Chan fun in a movie where it seems out of place. But whatever... it's Jackie Chan, so he can do what he wants.
This movie IS NOT a non-stop, beat-em-up, kung-fu-focused, fight-for-no-reason kind of movie, so if you wanted that, you might want to avoid.
If you're looking for a movie with a really sad story about a warlord who comes to realize the error of his ways, with some great fight-sequences mixed in, then Shaolin works. You're gonna feel sad at the end, though. I see a lot of parallels in story arc to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, and Little Big Soldier. If you've seen those, and you liked them (despite their sad endings), you'll appreciate Shaolin as well.