By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Jackie Chan movies come complete with standard expectations. You need Jackie Chan, of course — charming, modest, awkward, and ready to kick butt as always. You need a beautiful lead actress. You need at least one villain. You need a series of improbable events, which lead to improbable action sequences, each one ever more fantastic until the big finish, bigger than the sum of everything that came before it.
And Jackie Chan must win. And come up smiling.
Director Stanley Tong (who also wrote the script and worked on the fight choreography) delivers the goods on the formula for “Kung Fu Yoga,” a new comedy blending archaeology, India, China, buried treasure, and of course, action.
Jackie Chan plays an archaeologist named, conveniently enough, Jack. Through no fault of his own (the machinations of the plot are never Jackie Chan’s fault), he finds himself caught in an imbroglio, involving Indian culture, Chinese culture, and who really controls the rights to an enormous treasure.
Provided, of course, that the treasure can be found in the first place.
He’ll take on the trip with him his beautiful assistant Mu Qimiya, although the other assistant, Lay Zhang, contributes a younger-man vibe to prevent Jackie Chan’s Jack from looking too lecherous. Disha Patani appears as another leading lady, a mysterious character who may not be who she claims. The famous character actor Eric Tsang drops by to lend a hand technically. And Sonu Sood holds them all in suspense as an Indian playboy, who will stop at nothing to get the gold, every last droplet of it.
The film succeeds reasonably well, although it doesn’t achieve the heights of 1995’s “Rumble In The Bronx,” also starring Chan and directed by Tong. Here, Jackie’s got no problem with his warm, bumbling persona. At 62, he’s showing his age a bit in the fight sequences and the fight choreography, probably from the necessity of including non-Hong Kong stunt players, which doesn’t dazzle as it did in the old days. With a steady build, a back-and-forth between fighters often using props inventively, that, as Chan often remarked, was supposed to be as much like a dance.
Still, Indian and Chinese parity is achieved, with much mutual admiration of the yoga in kung fu and vice versa. The villain is vanquished … or is he? (I’ll leave you in a modest amount of suspense.) And everyone sings and dances on the whole way out. Jackie Chan and Stanley Tong still believe that enemies, having fought each other, having won, having lost … can sit down and drink tea together, and find themselves as friends. Perhaps, there’s a lesson in that for today.
“Kung Fu Yoga” is currently playing at the Pacific Place 11, 600 Pine Street in Seattle. Check local listings for prices and showtimes.
Andrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.