The setup in “Kung Fu Jungle” is quite easy. A mysterious murder involving an expert martial artist caught the attention of Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) who is now in the prison for a murder three years ago. He volunteers to help Detective Luk Yuen Sum (Charlie Yeung) in breaking the case, believing that the killing will lead to more death. It turns out he is correct, the brawler-skilled psychopath Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang) is on a personal mission to beat (kill) all the expert martial artist to prove a point after the death of his cancer-stricken wife. It is up to Hahou and Detective Luk to stop his madness.
Fans of Donnie Yen may just find this movie with much relief, considering the plotting and action sequences are better than “Iceman”, “The Monkey King” and “Special ID”. Teddy Chan is a no nonsense storyteller, offering a strong and mysterious plot that tries to establish the connection of between Yen and Wang’s characters in the beginning. In fact, we see Hahou’s clear motivation and Yu-Sau’s misguided intention running along so well. The premise makes use of its old-fashioned contemporary martial art setting about a man trying to prove his earnest “best of the world” by fighting the rest of the world. The complex police procedural treadmill also offers balance, excitement and gripping moments. The action sequences are also laced with effective choreography and style, but brutal.
But that does not last long. Once the movie hit its throttle into the second act, we start to see things falling apart. Why breaks the thing when it is going on nicely? Chan’s obsession for the excessive use of short-term flashbacks somewhat ruins the pacing. Countless of time, we see a repetitive order of start-end-middle sequences – that can be very confusing. Some of the scenes either do not make sense or missing with proper backstories. We failed to see the reason why Yu-Sau transforms from a loving husband to a mass murderer. We also failed to see why Detective Luk is so important in the whole movie. But then, it is ironic that while both characters fight for their own intentions, they are somewhat still empowered by clichéd love stories. At the end of the day, the other saving grace for “Kung Fu Jungle” comes in the third-act showdown we have been waiting for.
The latest offering from Teddy Chen, Donnie Yen and Baoqiang Wang, is still a gripping, entertaining and straightforward action movie; although the plot is less satisfactory with numerous nonsensical scenes, overdramatise moments and inconsistent pacing. “Kung Fu Jungle” is a mix between an upgrade and disappointment. B-
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