Kung Fu Yoga (Cert 12)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Well Go USA) Running Time: 108 minutes approx.
Jackie Chan should go into politics. The amount of times he stated that his martial arts/action movie days are over then he produces another film in which he is busting out his kung fu moves all over again! This time it’s on a global scale, travelling between four different international locations in search of a precious treasure.
Chan plays Dr. Jack Chan, an eminent archaeologist approached by an Indian professor Ashmita (Disha Patani) to travel to Tibet to locate the lost Magadha treasure. Leading a group that includes Jack’s assistants Xiaoguang (Zhang Yixing), Noumin (Miya Muqi), Ashmita’s assistant Kyra (Amyra Dastur) and treasure hunter Jones Lee (Aarif Rahman), they find the treasure but are ambushed by Indian megalomaniac Randall (Sonu Sood).
During the scuffle, Jones escapes with a 212 carat artefact and resurfaces in Dubai two weeks later to auction it off. Jack uses his contacts to bid for the artefact but Randall’s interference sees it change hands again, this time to Ashmita who returns to India with it. Jack and his team follow Ashmita to India where Randall puts his final plan into operation to claim the treasure for himself.
This plot synopsis probably doesn’t explain the title of Kung Fu Yoga at all since it is 99.9% Kung Fu and 0.1% yoga at best. It is in fact a clumsy way to delineate the film’s China/India crossover content to help International appeal. It sees Chan reunite with Stanley Tong, a former Hong Kong stuntman turned director, who took Chan to India before in 2005’s much lambasted The Myth.
Returning to this culture mash concept may seem like a bad idea in retrospect since Tong, who wrote the screenplay, seems able to deal only in stereotypes when showcasing Indian culture. While the entire cast speak competent English (save for the Chinese actors conversing with each other in Mandarin), this doesn’t stop the delivery of the dialogue from being awkward and unconvincing.
The Chinese actors seem more natural at this, but the problem is the dialogue itself. It seems to have been written for a text book aimed 5 year-olds, such is the stiff, bloated prose and heavy exposition. Characters talk to each other as if they are dumb, explaining things they really don’t have to, as if Tong fears the audience isn’t paying attention.
It is hard for the Indian characters to develop any sense of personality as a result while their Chinese counterparts are given a little more to work with. But, in keeping with the film’s visual flair and stunning aesthetic, the actors were chosen for their looks and not their talents, especially the Indian cast, both stunning women who can’t act for toffees.
And if the story wasn’t flimsy enough, the shoddy editing does as much damage in compromising the audience’s investment. So much happens off screen it ruins the flow of the story, suggesting Tong is keen to get to the next showpiece action scene. For instance, in Tibet, there is an almighty punch-up where Jackie and Co. defeated Randall’s men but then literally in the next scene, the protagonists have been caught and tied up!
This occurs way too often to allow us to make sense of what is going on, whilst another problem is with characters appearing and disappearing on a whim with any introduction or explanation. Who is Jack’s rich Chinese friend in Dubai? We don’t know but he has friends in high places apparently, as per his first ever line in the film. And the professor Jack meets in India – when did her first meet her and why is she important? Again, answers on a postcard.
Peppered through the film are Indian Jones references which Jack actually acknowledges at one point but only after a female student tries to impress Xiaoguang by drawing love hearts on her eyelids, Kyra complains that she hates snakes and of course, the character of Jones himself, a living homage in more than just name. It is tongue in cheek enough to be seen as a tribute but the joke wears a bit thin after a while.
Animal lovers may not appreciate the treatment of many of natures furriest friends, some of which are CGI, from a pack of snow wolves, to racing camels being whipped by remote control devices, hyena’s and even CGU elephants in a bizarre animated opening clip. There is also Little Jackie, a lion that Jack takes for a ride when he steals a car in Dubai, which actually provides some decent laughs.
So, a thumbs down, right? Well, here is the kicker – this film is stupidly entertaining. The action scenes are pure popcorn bombast, from the fights to the car chase through Dubai (where the police drive sports cars) and even the culturally outdated fight in the Indian market. CGI assisted they may be but the energy and excitement engendered compensates for the shortcomings elsewhere in this film.
Whilst Chan may have dropped the risky stunts, his fighting skills are still impeccable and a joy to watch, with Arif Rahman (who once played the young Bruce Lee) also providing some spectacular scraps too. One annoyance however is that girls, who one minute hold their own and fight off the men then the next are screaming helpless damsels in distress, a glaring inconsistency not welcome in 2017.
To top it all off though is the closing scene, which, in lieu of a proper ending, sees Jack shrug then lead everyone – friend, foe and hundreds of dancers appearing from nowhere – in a massive Bollywood style dance routine! Oh yes – a splendour of colour, zest and precision choreography, this is arguably the highlight of the film.
Despite getting so much wrong, Kung Fu Yoga is the closest we’ll probably get to a vintage style Jackie Chan film in 2017. It may be maladroit in its construction and gormless in its cultural presentation yet remains a very welcome slice of pure mindless escapist entertainment.
English Language Dub
Best Of Both Worlds
The Dynamic Duo
The Making Of
Jackie Chan Featurette
Bollywood Dance Featurette
Rating – ***
Man In Black