Kung Fu League/功夫联盟 Movie Review
KUNG FU LEAGUE tells the story of 4 martial arts heroes summoned to the real world to help defend the reputation of a man who directed A CHINESE ODYSSEY 3. No it doesn’t. Hi! Welcome to The Silver Spleen. My name is Frank Assessment and this is my review of KUNG FU LEAGUE. Jeff Lau was one of the most celebrated directors of Hong Kong cinema’s Golden Age. From his directorial debut, 1987’s HAUNTED COP SHOP, to working with Stephen Chow on the first two CHINESE ODYSSEY movies and beyond, Jeff Lau built a reputation for great comedies. Then he pissed it all away. With A CHINESE TALL STORY, KUNG FU CYBORG, EAST MEETS WEST, and 2016’s execrable CHINESE ODYSSEY 3, Jeff Lau burned through the audience’s goodwill faster than you can say FANTASTIC WATER BABES. But you know what? I watched KUNG FU LEAGUE anyway. It had Andy On and Vincent Zhao in a film that wasn’t TRUE LEGEND. TRUE LEGEND actually ruled, right up until that epilogue, a grafted-on appendage that made seem subtle and plausible. Seriously… I was looking forward to this movie to at least see what it was like. I liked the premise: four martial arts heroes summoned to the present to… right wrongs and… break stuff. I’m a simple man, with simple needs. KUNG FU LEAGUE opened strongly, with a parody of THE GRANDMASTER, y’know, fight in the rain. Now the first joke was a little broad, but it was really funny. Or should I say, the first half of the joke was funny. Anything funny once is funny twice, right? You know, it’s like if a spot of cake frosting on someone’s nose is funny, then mashing the whole cake in their face is even more funny, right? More funny is more better! This is what I like to call ‘mainland overstatement.’ It’s the main reason that I really can’t watch a lot of made-for-China comedies. Too often the jokes in these kind of movies become so labored that they really should form a workers union. I’ll be glad when China’s government has lifted 1.2 billion people out of the need for comedic overstatement. Watching KUNG FU LEAGUE, in fact, I actually wish that I could have seen it in Mandarin, because that’s obviously the language that it was filmed in. It’s not a big problem, but I think I just would have enjoyed it more in its original language. Speaking of language and enjoyment, it would be nice if the people who made movies for international release figured out that subtitles for dialogue are great, but, you know, in the movie, text messages and newspaper headlines, and signs on the wall, they kind of need to be subtitled too. But, you know, it’s important to remember that KUNG FU LEAGUE is a comedy, and as a consequence, there are considerations. The digital effects in the movie are less than stellar, but laughably bad in a comedy is kind of a strength, right? Keep in mind that digital effects are also the last thing that gets done in a movie. That usually means that any and every budget shortfall before then ends up being covered by money taken out of the FX budget. So by the time the effects are being done, it’s usually late in the game, both literally & figuratively. I mean that money is running out faster than if Chris Hansen walked into the kitchen. Or if Jeff Lau walked into an investor’s meeting, but now I’m just being mean. Never mind all that. KUNG FU LEAGUE isn’t really an insultingly bad film, and that’s me saying that! There were quite a few moments where I sincerely laughed. The comic chemistry between the lead actors was a lot of fun to watch. Andy On Chi Kit in particular deserves mention for his really good comic timing, for looking extra smooth in an outfit that frankly not many of us would look good in, and for doing most of the movie with a significant injury. The cast on his leg that you see in the movie wasn’t a prop. I enjoyed the way the Ip Man character was portrayed. I don’t know if, or how much, that’s supposed to be a dig at someone who has recently played Ip Man frequently in movies, but at the very least, I just enjoyed seeing Dennis To on a big screen again. Ditto for Danny Chan. Now I didn’t really care for the main story or for the people in it. They just made me feel old. I mean, when the geek suddenly becomes, you know, heroic and unstoppable… that’s not a spoiler… It was just off-putting. There’s no training montage, he literally just, like, cheats and suddenly he’s awesome. Y’know I’m not saying that old martial arts movies were any more realistic, but at least they showed that people had to work to get somewhere, whereas this is just… But like I said, y’know, I don’t actually feel insulted or ripped off for having watched this movie. For that and other reasons, it’s exponentially better than ICEMAN: THE TIME TRAVELER, which, it should be said, stayed in cinemas no longer than KUNG FU LEAGUE did. KUNG FU LEAGUE has some sincerely funny moments, it has some reasons to watch it, I didn’t necessarily like everything in it, but you might like different things than I do, or you might even like more than I did. If nothing else, it was just really nice to see a movie that starred people that don’t normally get that opportunity, and it was an awful lot of fun to watch how well they all work together. So on that level, I really enjoyed this movie, and I think you might too. So if you get a chance, watch it. But you know how: don’t steal it, buy a disc, watch it on video on demand, or somehow or other pay for the privilege, okay? Do me that favor, don’t steal this movie. Actors have kids, they gotta take care of ’em! And since we’re talking about money, please do me a favor: click on my Patreon page. I’m not asking for a lot. What’s $1 a month? It’s not- an American dollar. It’s not gonna kill you. Really. Wouldn’t you enjoy these videos if they had better production quality? I know I would, but I’m not yet in a position to go out and buy a whole bunch of new gear, so you could help me with that, okay? If you enjoyed this review please let me know, and if you didn’t, let me know. Thank you for watching, I’ll see you again soon.