general hou (andy lau) is an powerful warlord, tearing his way through china, with the younger, cao (nicholas tse) riding at his side. after a display of arrogance and disrespect which involved cao pursuing one of hou's rival into the shaolin temple, where hou killed him, hou begins plotting against general song (shi xiao-hong). song meets with hou, intent on trying to marry off his daughter to hou's son, thus creating a bond between the two families and consolidating power. whilst song is unaware of hou's scheming, hou is equally unaware that cao is plotting against him, hungry for power himself.
as hou's world begins to collapse around him, he takes shelter in the shaolin temple, renouncing his past and embracing life as a monk. still, even if he is accepted by the other monks, there's trouble on the horizon for everyone...
so, yeah, i've just been saying how much i enjoy benny chan films when they're done well and now i watch two in a row which just aren't very good. and, yes, this isn't very good. this is a story which has been told many times, by many people; not this story in particular, but the story of karma catching up to a man and driving him into the arms of those who he has wronged, where he can repent and atone. you know this is going to happen here. you know it is going to happen and you wait for it to happen, you watch it happen and you don't care. you don't care because it's all so laboured and flat, that simply watching the film becomes an effort.
i like andy lau, but this and 'detective dee' were both films i did not enjoy. i won't blame the non-ageing one though, the blame probably lies at benny's door; maybe not for his directorial work, but maybe because in his role as producer he allowed his four (less than reputable) writers to churn out a crappy script. who knows? not me. and, to be honest, i seem to have pushed almost all of this film from my mind and find myself remembering very little.
what i do remember thinking is that lau was fine, nicholas tse was okay, but hardly in it and the same can be said of fan bing-bing: even with her loveliness, i can recall very little about her role as hou's wife. wu jing, again, i feel was underused in his role as the head trainer of monks. then there's jackie chan who was fine in his supporting role.
i suppose the most telling thing is that i can only remember one fight sequence and that was one featuring a supporting character and a bunch of kids. it certainly says a lot to me, that in a film about the shaolin temple, only one action sequence sticks in my mind enough for me to remember. any how, reading this is probably getting to be as dull as actually sitting through the movie: i shall still hold out for benny chan's next movie being a cracker. anyone else for 'invisible target 2: invisibler target'?
the dvd is hk$105 from buyoyo.com