The Forbidden Kingdom
dir Rob Minkoff
scr John Fusco
with Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Michael Angarano, Liu Yifei, Collin Chou, Li Bingbing, Wang Deshun, Morgan Benoit, Xiao Dong Mei, Bin Jiang, Yang Shaohua, Michelle Du
release US 18.Apr.08, UK 11.Jul.08
08/China Lionsgate 1h53
The Forbidden Kingdom
He needs a montage: Li, Angarano and Chan

li chan angarano
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Forbidden Kingdom Jackie Chan and Jet Li unite on screen for the first time in this raucous action movie that combines outrageously entertaining fight scenes with just enough of an ancient Chinese legend to keep us hooked.

Jason (Angarano) is a martial arts movie fan in Boston who comes into possession of an antique battle staff that drags him back in time to feudal China. He's apparently the prophesied traveller who will return the stick to its rightful owner, the Monkey King (Li), who was turned to stone by the Jade Warlord (Chou). Jason teams up with a drunken fight master (Chan), a silent monk (Li again) and a vengeful young woman (Liu) to learn kung fu and head for the Jade Palace. But a fierce witch (Li Bingbing) is intent on stopping him.

Combining the kinetic directorial style of Minkoff (Stuart Little) with choreography master Yuen Woo-Ping gives this film the spark it needs to catapult us through the story, while Chan and Li keep us entertained by doing what they do best: having fun. Yet while the film has plenty of comedy, the action is nowhere near as goofy as most of Chan's films. The battle sequence choreography is vivid and fierce, with continually inventive touches and a constant sense of realistic brutality that's undercut by clever wit.

Yes, Chan is as silly as usual as the constantly tipsy but always alert master, and he squares off nicely against Li's fast-and-serious monk for a particularly energetic extended fight sequence when they first meet up, in which they use both the stick and Jason as weapons, among other things. Alongside them, Angarano is pretty hapless, but grows into an intriguing, robust character as things progress down the fairly predictable path. And both Liu and Li Bingbing take their feisty roles and run with them.

Sure, there's nothing hugely surprising here, but the way the story moves, the action along the way and especially the hectic but always lucid fight scenes are all thoroughly eye-catching. Not to mention the glorious Chinese setting, beautifully photographed by Peter Pau. It's basically The Karate Kid on a much bigger scale. And it's great fun while it lasts.

cert 12 themes, strong violence 13.Apr.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall