The Fight Scenes of ‘Kung-Fu Yoga’ Make Up for Some Ghastly CGI

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Kung-Fu Yoga

The opening scenes of Kung-Fu Yoga, the latest collaboration between Jackie Chan and director Stanley Tong, filled me with a mixture of depression and despair. In their previous efforts, Chan and Tong have crafted action masterpieces that blend outlandish stunts with slapstick humor that stand among some of the best work of Chan’s career as well as the action genre as a whole. In the opening scenes of Kung-Fu Yoga, the screen is filled with some of the most inept CGI to ever grace the screen, effects that would’ve seem cheap and antiquated 15 years ago. Jackie Chan wanders this CG landscape that is providing the backstory for Kung-Fu Yoga, a battle between the Chinese and the Indians nearly a thousand years ago, like the action superstar is wandering through a decades-old video game. No reasonable person would expect a 62-year-old Jackie Chan to be hanging off of helicopters and performing stunts to his old caliber, but this CG-soaked nonsense left me feeling nothing but sorrow.

Movies aren’t judged by single scenes alone, and as Kung-Fu Yoga progresses it finds it footing with some really wonderful fight sequences and stunt work that comes to life through Tong’s assured direction. However, for all the fight scenes that work that looming specter of woefully inadequate CGI hangs over much of Kung-Fu Yoga, often leaving sequences feeling more artificial than usual and giving the film a really ugly texture that is only unnoticeable when the fists and feet are flying.

Chan stars as Jack, an archeologist that is basically Jackie Chan’s version of Indiana Jones. Jack has spent most of his life studying clues in search for lost treasures from the Magadha Kingdom, an ancient kingdom that existed in India. When the Indian archeologist Ashmita (Disha Patani) asks Jack for his assistance in examining new clues, Jack jumps at the opportunity. Jack tracks down the son of a deceased friend, Jones (Aarif Rahman), who isn’t an archeologist as much as a renegade treasure hunter, to join his expedition along with two postgraduate students Nuomin (Mu Qimiya) and Xiaoguang (Lay Zhang). As they trot the globe examining clues, they’re soon faced with a nemesis in Randall (Sonu Sood), a ruthless man that sees the lost treasure as his birthright and will stop at nothing to get what he believes is his.

Once it gets past its ghastly opening scene and the wonky scenes establishing the characters, Kung-Fu Yoga finally gets going and delivers the goods that fans of Jackie Chan are looking for. The horrendous CGI is always present but once the movie introduces Randall it unleashes a series of magnificent fight sequences that feature crisp direction highlighting excellent fight choreography and stunt work. In the fight scenes, Jackie Chan gives one of his best physical performances in recent memory. He unleashes punches and kicks at blazing speed as the older Chan can still dazzle with flips and other assorted stunts. The entire cast of Kung-Fu Yoga shines in these action sequences but it’s Aarif Rahman who proves to be the standout. The young actor performs great stunts and has dashing looks that complement the physicality of his performance.

There are car chases and moments where the heroes are imperiled by wild animals, but each of these sequences are underwhelming because of the film’s woeful computer effects. Even much of the acting within this multinational, multi-lingual film is fairly wooden or broad. Despite all these noticeable deficiencies, Kung-Fu Yoga works because of the numerous scenes of fantastic hand-to-hand combat that are often punctuated with a comedic tone. Keeping with the film’s Indian influences, Kung-Fu Yoga concludes with a Bollywood dance number led by Chan, the action legend tapping his toes with a big, wide grin. Kung-Fu Yoga isn’t a great movie nor does it even come close to being among Jackie Chan’s best work, but it delivers on the visceral thrills of its masterfully executed fight scenes. This is the second Jackie Chan film to be released this month, following Railroad Tigers, and the fact that this film is able to provide even the slightest thrills expected makes it a flying kick in the right direction.

Kung-Fu Yoga
  • Overall Score
3

Summary

Despite some truly horrendous CGI and wooden acting, Kung-Fu Yoga works in spurts because Jackie Chan and director Stanley Tong know how to construct dazzling fight scenes featuring a comedic bent.

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