Kung Fu Jungle (2014)
A serial killer is targeting the top martial artists in various disciplines, defeating each by using their own techniques, to prove that he is the undisputable number one. Martial arts master Hahou Mo is serving a prison sentence for killing an opponent in a duel, and offers to help the police identify and catch the killer by predicting who his next victim will be, in exchange for an early release.
KUNG FU JUNGLE (or KUNG FU KILLER as it was released in the UK, because the entire country is stupid) is an homage to the golden age of Hong Kong action cinema, featuring the classic elements of a flimsy plot and lots of exciting fights and stunts. It features numerous walk on parts from actors, producers and directors of yore - with some legends that evidently couldn't appear in person making small cameos via TV screens (we see clips of Lau Kar Leung in Seven Swords and Jackie Chan in Drunken Master - no Sammo Hung or Yuen Biao, sadly).
The plot offers about as minimalist a reason as can be imagined to stage a series of fights, showcasing various forms and techniques.
The first fight features Donnie Yen taking on a large gang of prisoners, and sets expectations pretty high... nicely choreographed, staged and performed, though it may feel a little familiar to viewers of The Raid 2. The next fight is an imaginative duel of kicks set atop a giant model skeleton, which is the kind of mad idea that Hong Kong film makers had on a daily basis in the 1980's. Unfortunately it is a bit short and reaches the ground much too soon. From there we get a series of duels in different styles, featuring a number of talented performers, each of which manages to be unique and compelling.
In between fights, some stupid stuff happens. Some of it gives the producers a good excuse to get various colleagues from the industry on screen for a few minutes or seconds, which hopefully at least helps them pay the bills.
As a conscious throwback, KUNG FU JUNGLE perhaps doesn't aim quite far back enough. There are two scenes in particular which have some bad CGI, which spoils them a bit. The finale only seems to be throwing back as far as 2013 in fact, being altogether too reminiscent of that in Iceman 3D.
Were I not predisposed to enjoy an homage to Hong Kong action cinema featuring Donnie Yen, I could probably find an awful lot to criticise in the film. It is probably not a good film when people are not fighting. Luckily, the fights are plentiful enough that I hardly even noticed the bits in between.
One for the fans.