Thursday, October 9, 2008

Movie Review: Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin

Well, not quite as good as I was expecting. The latest entry in my briefly-interrupted Jackie Chan Film Festival is Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin. I think I was confusing this one with Snake In The Eagle's Shadow, which is the film that kicks off the "classic" Jackie Chan period. This one still belongs back in the "early" era, with a more restrained performance from Chan in the lead role of Hsu Yiu Fong. After a prologue describing the creation and disappearance of the Ultimate Kung Fu Book ("The Eight Steps Of The Snake And Crane"), Hsu shows up, dropping lots of hints that he possesses the book. This, of course, draws attention from pretty much every gang around - the Black Dragons, the Flying Tigers, the Nittany Lions - and Jackie easily beats back every attempt at theft. His persona here isn't the goofball from Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu nor the badass from New Fist Of Fury. He doesn't really boast a lot, but he isn't going for the humble newcomer approach, either. He's kind of "casually dominant".

Along the way, he drops hints that he will reveal the book and what he is looking for "later", which is good for us since for most of the movie, he's just walking around getting attacked to no effect. But eventually he reveals that he is setting a trap for someone (although no points for guessing which character it is - he all but twirls his mustache the few early times we see him). And sure enough, the movie ends with a fight between Jackie and the revealed Big Boss that ends rather suddenly - and then "The End" pops up on the screen.

Not much into long denouements at this point in his career.

Fight scenes here are passable, but nothing special. This one doesn't have the "magical" wuxia-type moves - everyone pretty much stays on the ground - and there isn't a lot in the way of weapons or environment incorporated into any of the fights. Just basic, standard stuff. A late fight with Jackie against three staff-wielders holds early promise, but it too ultimately fails to deliver. And the final fight didn't do much for me either.

Given that there really wasn't much plotline either (even compared to other Jackie Chan movies), I can't really give this one more than two stars - a really mediocre effort. Up next, the movie I thought I was going to be seeing - Snake In The Eagle's Shadow.

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