Friday, January 27, 2017

Kung Fu Yoga: Jackie Chan Goes Bollywood

It is a martial arts film deliberately crafted to support Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” neo-Silk Road-sphere of influence policy. It is also a tomb-raiding film without tomb-raiding, Instead, world famous archaeologist “Jack Chan” risks life and limb to recover lost artifacts for the greater glory of China. In addition to physical danger and extreme elements, he must also deal with deceptions and double-crosses in Stanley Tong’s Kung Fu Yoga, which opens today in New York.

When a highly regarded and impressively limber Indian archaeologist requests Chan’s help tracking down a treasure lost during the Journey to the West era, he can hardly say no. Along with his teaching assistants and Jianguo an old crony who specializes in remote petroleum drilling, Chan globe-trots off the China-India border, to follow the clues on an ancient map. Unbeknownst to them, the well-heeled descendant of the rebel Magadha army lies in wait to ambush Chan’s team. It was his ancestor who lost the fabulous treasure, so he intends to steal it back to restore the family honor.

However, the real treasure remains buried somewhere deeper within India. To find it, both parties will have to acquire the artifact stolen by Jones, the son of Chan’s late friend and colleague. Unfortunately, Jones has put it up for auction in Dubai, the conspicuous consumption capitol of the world.

Granted, KFY is a little wacky, but it is not a full-on goofball spectacle in the mode of Chuen Chan’s 1979 Kung Fu vs. Yoga. Arguably, the sequence in which Jack[ie] Chan pursues a car chase with a not so tame lion in the back seat of his appropriated SUV harkens back to the madcap spirit of vintage Chan movies. Tong also makes Dubai look like an absolutely horrible, nauseatingly shallow place to visit and an even worse place to live.

Chan mostly acts two-thirds his age in KFY, even checking into the hospital at one point. Aarif Rahman’s Jones displays some solid chops, carrying a disproportionate share of the martial arts load, while Eric Tsang is about as shticky as you would expect as Jianguo. Disha Patani is certainly a good sport flirting with Chan as the secret Indian princes Ashmita. However, Mu Qimiya matches and maybe exceeds her yoga flexibility and screen appeal as Chan’s assistant Nuomin.

There is a good deal of corn in KFY, but there are also a handful of gleefully outlandish action scenes, including one set in a cage full of hyenas (beasts are definitely beastly in this Chan outing). It closes with a Bollywood number which is a cliché, but it is still good, clean fun. It can get silly, but never in the way that makes loyal fans gag. Recommended as a fluffy, harmless romp, Kung Fu Yoga opens today (1/27) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

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