Well-mounted Chinese-Hong Kong martial-arts co-production Shaolin elevates enlightenment above brute strength, but weak helming undercuts the pic's punch.
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Only Jackie Chan, in a comedic supporting role as a Zen-trained cook who applies his culinary techniques on the battlefield (he "stir-fries" one enemy in a giant pot and "kneads" another like dough), provides any measure of relief.
Jackie Chan's cameo as a monastery cook is a tiny joy. To see Chan use his once-great physical skill on a hunk of bread dough is to see a giant work in miniature.
Fists fly furiously and much blood is spilled; there's a sacrifice via sword that's both cringe-inducing and cheerworthy. Even special guest star Jackie Chan gets in on the fun with a hilarious bit of food-jitsu. It's almost enough to make you forget that this entertainingly hollow film is populated entirely with toy soldiers.
Director Benny Chan has fashioned a visually sumptuous period wushu film with a strikingly contemplative and pacifist bent.
This crude, overlong chunk of kung-fu kitsch lays its scene in a 1920s Republican China, torn by internecine fighting and weighed down by drably expensive production design.
If the movie feels old-school (with new-school production values), consider its pedigree. It's no wonder: Shaolin is a reimagining of the 1982 "Shaolin Temple," in which Jet Li made his debut.
This new movie features stylishly filmed and choreographed battles. But in between the set pieces is a lot of sentimental blather that slows down the film. More action, less talk should be the order of the day, but it isn't.