Dir. Stanley Tong. HK-China.2005. 118mins.
Shotmostly in Mandarin and Cantonese with some English and Hindi, the filmuncomfortably tries to straddle several markets. It has found some favour within the forgiving Chinese market - the fightscenes should pass muster - but US audiences will not have the patience for itsnearly two-hour running time, let alone the subtitles. Home video should mirrortheatrical.
The filmopens in China's distant past as the Korean consort of Emperor Qin Shi-huang is under escort bythe emperor's trusted warrior General Meng-yi (Chan).The entourage is attacked by the forces of a rival prince and Meng-yi fights seemingly to the death to protect his charge.
But thisis all a dream: a recurring dream, it seems, of Jack (also Chan), a Hong Kongarchaeologist - and a stunningly successful one, given his vast waterfronthome, complete with sliding rooftop driving range.
EnterJack's friend William (Leung Ka Fai). Says Jack:"You're a physicist, I'm an archaeologist. How can I help'" William invitesJack to join him on a quest for the secret to anti-gravity, said to be heldwithin a mythical gem within a Hindu temple in India.
Ofcourse, when they get there, the local swami is making a show of his powers,one of which includes walking on air. It's ridiculously easy to find the gemstonebut in snatching it they cause the collapse of the temple - and the swami. (It'shard to imagine this sequence impressing Indian audiences. Perhaps theappearance at this juncture of Indian star Mallika Sherawat as Jack's rescuer is some kind of appeasement.)
Certainly,her presence seems beside the point until the film finally finds space for thegag set-piece Chan's public expects: in this case, a nicely choreographed chaseacross a fly-paper conveyor belt in a glue factory. This requires Chan and,more important, Sherawat to disrobe piecemeal tocreate an escape route across the stickiness.
Ah, butwhat about the general' Tong and his screenwriting colleagues don't find arhythm for their inter-era travel to bridge the gap between Chan's two roles.When the action shifts back to the general, who has somehow survived and isbeing cared for by the consort (Korean star Kim Hee-seon),it's very hard to care - especially when the worlds collide.
Thedenouement transpires in a mystical place known as the Heavenly Palace - wherethe consort has been waiting to be reunited with General Jack - and Jackfinally realises what was apparent from beginning:that William is duping him. Only the truly committed will be paying attentionby this stage.
All ofthis could be forgiven if the film had found a way to make this story work forChan. The mannerisms that make him effective in blockbuster roles such as
Even ifChan's abilities were up to the challenge, the rest of the film is too facileto comfortably support inclusion of emotional moments.
China Film Group Corp
Tony Leung Ka-fai