Kung Fu Dunk 功夫灌籃 (2008) – Hong Kong / Taiwan / China

A much lesser attempt at recapturing the spirit of Shaolin Soccer…

Review by Neo: Kung Fu Dunk follows the same route as one of HK’s biggest movie in Shaolin Soccer, but the results is totally another story. While the aforementioned flick starred the arguable the biggest Hong Kong superstar, Kung Fu Dunk have Taiwan’s own favourite son in singer turned actor, Jay Chow. Combining kung fu with sports is no longer something new and the result providing the audience with an average mindless entertainment. While Shaolin Soccer is a classic three act underdog story, Kung Fu Dunk goes like a rollercoaster rides but without the thrills in between. Sure, some fun can be had and the duo chemistry in Eric Tsang and Jay Chow is even at times touching, but this is by no means a great movie at all.

Jay Chow is a stoic actor and in other words he is like a piece of wood. His face is expressionless and while he once claimed that he wanted to be become the next Jet Li, it is fast becoming more of a dream than reality. Li is a stoic actor, but not one without emotions, one classic example is Li performance in Hero. On the outlook his performance is that of wooden, but looking closely his eyes contained deeper motivations as he confronted the King. Needless to say, Li is now a Best Actor in his acclaimed role in Warlords, and if Chow wants to become anywhere near his ambition, he will need to learn and reflect upon his method of acting. Despite sharing the same surname as Stephen Chow, Jay is no comedian and while he is easily likable, he does not oozes the same level of charisma as say Li or the much more famous Chow counterpart.

Perhaps the film unlikely saving grace comes in the form of veteran Eric Tsang, in what is most likely his best role since Infernal Affairs. Tsang is a flawed character, yet he is sympathetic and probably the only person in the whole movie that seemed human and real. He is greedy, selfish, but deep down he is sentimental and his belief in Jay till the very end allows the audience to relate to his human character, rather than special effects. Tsang lifts up this film from bad to average and for that Mr. Tsang take a bow. While the cover of the atrocious Dangerous Games claimed that his performance there was better than Comrades: A Love Story, maybe the cover designer was referring to this movie.

Charlene Choi also appears in the flick, but in the end, she really has nothing to do other than look cute, promote that style of glasses, act cute and be cute. With her counterpart Gillian now in seclusion, it is now up to Charlene to stand up by herself. It is disappointing to witness Choi in such an insignificant role, especially after her Hong Kong Film Critics award winning performance in Simply Actors.

At the end of the day, the real reason why Kung Fu Dunk did not work is really pointing at the producers and director. The overuse of crappy special effects is one huge downfall and adding to the mix is the unrealistic script based on a manga. Without forgetting, it is ultimately the director’s (Kevin Chu) fault in filming such crappy basketball sequences. As a basketball player for almost 14 years (despite the fact that Neo is not a good player still), the film lack any sort of tactical awareness or the “never give up” spirit that is required in competitive basketball. Without being a big head, this movie did reminded Neo of a little over 7 years ago that he was once in the school basketball team which reached the State Grand Final. In the final, Neo lifted up his game and played the best basketball he has ever played. Despite losing in the final, Neo holds no regrets, as we played our best as a team and as an individual. Even though 7 years on, he may never have another chance to reach those heights again, that feeling and emotion of playing in a grand final is priceless.

All in all, Kung Fu Dunk is at best, a mindless entertainment, but even so, it is just an average one. It is a shame that it cannot be what it intended to be (namely Shaolin Soccer), and with technology 7 years on since that little Stephen Chow movie, it is just not good enough. Jay Chow has done extremely well as a debutant director in Secret, but here his acting has become all too familiar. There is no doubt that he did not deserve the Best New Artist Award for Initial D, where Anthony Wong commented so strongly. Still, it is really just yet another average Hong Kong movie, but once again, it is really the case of what could have been. So what’s next on the menu? Kung Fu Tennis sounds utterly original… (Neo 2008)

I rate it 5.5/10

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