Every now and again, fate throws up two actors that are destined to work together. The viewing public know it, the big spending producers know it - but it seems that the only people that don't actually realise it are the two actors in question.
Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are probably the two biggest names that come to mind when thinking about possible acts - but apart from their oh so brief onscreen together in Michael Manns Heat, they've done nothing together since - but look out for the upcoming Righteous Kill, due to be released here in the UK in a couple of weeks at the time of writing. Of course, these two actors are giants in Hollywood and their individual shooting schedules has probably made it nigh on impossible for them to do this earlier.
Giants in their own particular field of martial arts movies are Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Both have made it big in Hollywood now so getting these two masters of Kung Fu to front a big Hollywood summer hit was on the cards one day - and that day is now in the form of The Forbidden Kingdom. Though it does steal from just about every martial arts movie made Stateside, it's not a bad little romp into the fantasy world of director Rob Minkoff - who had previously brought us Stuart little 1 & 2 and The Haunted Mansion
Martial arts obsessed American teenager Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) frequents an old store run by a Chinaman by the name of Old Hop (Jackie Chan). One night as Jason is on his way home from the store, he's mugged by a gang of youth thugs who force him to take them to Hops store so they can rob it. Hop is shot in the ensuing fight but entrusts Jason with returning a golden staff back to its rightful owner...The Monkey King. Jason wakes up in a far away foreign land holding the staff - and it appears he's in another time also. He is chased by a group of horsemen and rescued by the immortal Lu Yan (also played by Jackie Chan). The immortals in this kingdom all have a vice that they must indulge in to remain immortal - Lu Yans just happens to be wine, so Chan has a ball playing the drunken Kung Fu master, staggering around the screen looking like he's trying to find the nearest kebab shop...
Later on, they're joined by Silent Monk (Jet Li). The film begins to borrow heavily from other movies at this point - starting with The Karate Kid. To enable Jason to have the strength and will to deliver the staff to The Monkey King, the two immortals must teach him Kung Fu. It's comical in its presentation - but I imagine it's meant to be that way.
There is some other background stories that run parallel with the main feature. They include a love story (which Hollywood film would be complete without one, eh?), a Jade Emperor and some nasties out to do what they can to stop The Monkey King from getting his staff back - for when he does, the Jade Emperor will awake from his 500 year meditation and banish said nasties from the planet...
I loved this film. It was so refreshing to be able to sit back and watch a film that doesn't take itself too seriously. The two leads seem to be having the time of their lives playing different roles (Li also plays The Monkey King) - and because of this, the film flows along at a mighty pace and never really lets up.
The fight scenes, of which there are many, are brilliantly choreographed and staged. Granted, a lot of it is done on wires, and a lot of the scenes are very Crouching Tiger in their staging - but that's not a bad thing, is it?
Michael Angarano - who plays Jason - has a lot of history in American television but has appeared on the big screen before in Sky High to name but one. He doesn't really look geeky enough to play the part of a...err...geek! He's quite muscular and if anything, looks like he should be picking up Shia Lebouf's rejected scripts. However, it all bodes well once he's learnt the ancient art of Kung Fu - in a week - and you'll be cheering at the end like I was.
The bottom line of this particular section is this - if you love movies that take you to a place far far away, The Forbidden Kingdom is most definitely for you. I can wholeheartedly recommend this film to lovers of the martial arts genre and action movie bass heads alike. I loved it.
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