Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shaolin Wooden Men

The Action Mutant…
battles the Pink Elephants in his dreams.

Shaolin Wooden Men

review by Joe Burrows

The Plot, as it was:
Jackie Chan is Tommy (aka "Little Mute"), a mute student among the Shaolin temple wanting to gain revenge for his father's death when he was younger. He gradually learns Kung Fu from a jailed gang leader (Kam Kong) and leaves the Shaolin after beating the "wooden men" (an obstacle course of wooden "Rock 'em, Sock 'em Robots", kinda). Soon, the gang leader escapes his prison and Tommy soon realizes that it may not have been a good idea to entrust his learning to an incarcerated felon.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
This holier than thou entry in Jackie Chan's filmography is not without merit but is also largely unmemorable. Famed (or infamed? or inflamed?) producer Lo Wei casts Chan here as the silent, sullen hero and that plays to Chan's strengths as well as Chuck Norris having to sell pain. Granted, the Chan man does well with what he's given and he plays low key decently but just don't expect anything you will remember the next day. The flick's more dramatic and scaled down to start, with training sequences that are solid but don't really jump off the page. The second half picks up enough steam where its watchable but again nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe it is bias kicking in but the fact that its Jackie Chan starring in a rather conventional period drama may turn some people off. The fights (though choreographed by Chan, Ming Chin and fellow "Third Brother" Yuen Biao) are good but not spectacular and are kept at the normal speed for the time. Simply put, fans of the genre get what is to be expected: a competent entry with a few fun fight scenes near the end. Total Chan fans may be in for a letdown so it's probably fair to call Shaolin Wooden Men somewhere near the middle.

Body Count/Violence: 18. Most are just beaten up real bad and declared dead but there are a few death blows thrown in to clear things up. The most notable death amongst the fighting is Jackie hurling a sword through a baddie's midsection.

Sexuality/Nudity: None.

Language/Dialogue: The occasional obscenity but on an irregular basis.

How bad was it?:
Most genre critics are split down the middle, saying its not the best of its kind but certainly nowhere near the worst. They say its not even close to Chan's best work but its accepted as a vital part of his film history.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Shaolin wooden Men was released in Hong Kong on 11/10/76 and stayed in theaters for a week. It got its first American video release in 1987 and is available under several video companies. Its original source print was lost so video distributors only have to go by a video copy for transfer so view at your own risk.

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ***/*****

Copyright 2012 The Action Mutant.

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