Martial Arts of Shaolin (1986)

Nan bei Shao Lin (1986) 99min | Action, Drama | 1 February 1986 (Hong Kong) Summary: In ancient China, Zhi Ming trains at the legendary Northern Shaolin temple to avenge the death of his father at the hands of a nefarious magistrate.
Countries: Hong Kong, ChinaLanguages: Mandarin

Maybe I missed something by not having cottoned on to the fact there were two other movies directly before this one. Maybe I was thrown by the Husband sat on the sofa confidently pronouncing that Jet Li only did serious material so I was bound to have stumbled upon a rare treat. Maybe I was spoiled by the depth and quality of Opium and the Kung Fu Master. Maybe I was just expecting… who knows what I was expecting? It wasn’t this.

There are two young men and a young woman (who of course is called a girl even though she clearly isn’t, except when she is dressed as a man whereupon she is called ‘he’ even though she clearly isn’t either). They all would like to kill an evil tyrant who has wronged them in some way. There is an elaborate assassination attempt that revolves around a dragon dance at a birthday party. It does not end well. The three go on the run together.

There are many curious scenes. The scene where two of the party disguise themselves as sheep to get past a roadblock (rather than just go cross country?), for example. The scene where a Buddhist monk must decide whether allowing something to die is as bad as choosing that something else must die, but then a bit later, the cheerful sight of a Buddhist monk giving a bad buy the good old five fingered death punch. The scene fought on a river barge that reminded me too much of Star Wars, and not in a good way. The awkward gender reveal of a young woman who is not only seemingly obliged to wear flowers in her hair when she’s dressed as a woman but also requires rescuing by the end although she’s nails at the beginning.

Did I like this movie? I think that I must say that I did not particularly. There was, perhaps, too much going on. And I say this with the experience of having watched and appreciated The Five Venoms.

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