The first reaction that people make when mentioning the title of this film is the look of confusion. They laugh and wonder how the both kung-fu and yoga can be combined. Well, all is almost explained in the film, but not really demonstrated, sadly. Plus for those who view Chinese films regularly should be used to this formula of film titles where martial arts is combined with another activity. Previous examples include Shaolin Soccer (with comedy actor/director Stephen Chow) and Kung-fu Dunk (with Tawainese muscian/actor/director Jay Chou).
Jackie Chan is back in this action/adventure outing, although it has only been two months since the release of his last film, Railroad Tigers. This time Jackie reunites with director Stanley Tong (Police Story 3: Supercop, Rumble in the Bronx and The Myth) for a rip-roaring, wacky, action adventure set across China, Dubai and India.
This time round we see Jackie playing the role of Jack,a renowned professor of archaeology, almost the same role that he played in the The Myth. Although this is not intended to be a sequel to The Myth as in that film Jack was assigned with the task of going to India to look for a gemstone with magical powers and while doing this got to have dreams about his past life as a Qin dynasty General Meng Yi falling in love Korean Princess OK-soo. This time it is slightly different.
We first see Jack in the middle of a lecture. Jack, who is a smartly dressed intellectual who is more than passionate about the subject he teaches, we know this as he is dedicated to it. In this scene there is a small reference to classic Raiders of the Lost Ark scene where a young female student with painted hearts on her eyelids, focuses and bats them at Jack’s younger assistant Xiaoguang (played by heart-throb Yixing Zhang from South Korean-Chinese boyband EXO).
Later Jack is approached Professor Ashmita (played by Bollywood actress Amyra Dastur) to help find hidden treasures which were lost in 647 A.D. At the start of this film, we first learn about the treasures in a bizarrely animated prologue which features Chan in motion-capture playing real historical figure Wang Xuance, who defended the kingdom of Magadha from renegade general Arunsava. Introductions like this seem to be the formula for Jackie’s current films as a way of connecting history with the present time and engaging audiences into the film. Frequently throughout the film Jack is referred to as the world’s greatest archaeologist by other characters and to which Jack always replies in a humble manor with “just one of. This itself becomes a small running joke.
To help find the treasures Jack recruits Jones (another Raiders of the Lost Ark reference), played by the charismatic Aarif Rahman (who comes across as a Jackie Chan-esque action actor for the next generation of film audiences) and oil drilling expert Jianhua (Eric Tsang from numerous Jackie Chan films and Infernal Affairs). Together with Jack’s team they embark on an adventure to find one of the lost treasurers in the Kunlun mountains at the Indo-Tibetan border (although scenes for this location were actually filmed in Iceland). While at the cave, a descendant of Arunsava, Randall (Sonu Sood) and his henchmen ambush Jack and his team, leaving them for dead. Jones escapes with the gemstone leaving everyone else behind. Jack and Ashmita. Who are who are still in the cave and unable to get out through the main hole, manage to escape while Ashmita demonstrates the “fetal breath-holding technique” which is is the second and final time that yoga is ever mentioned or performed in the film. Sadly no actual kung-fu yoga ever take place.
We then follow the team to Dubai where they find Jones to try get the gemstone back. This leads a flashy car chase (constructed by car-stunt specialist Bruce Law and his team,) made up of luxurious, sports cars and has Jackie and team in pursuit with with a furry, feline passenger. This scene, consists of the finest, brightly cars that you’d expect to be on the streets of Dubai, is a nice throwback to to an era when this car-chases action scenes were always part of the enjoyable package of a Jackie Chan/Hong Kong action film. The exaggerated CGI is added for comical effect to make sure everyone is entertained whether it be for the high-speed action or over-the-top comedy.
The film then moves into Rajastan for the finale where we see Jack and his team battle it out with Randall and his henchmen for the treasures and with great historical and beautiful scenery in the backdrop. As expected the last fight scene is full of the usual slick fight choreography that Chan is renown for and shows that even at 62 he still has it. Suddenly the film comes to a close with the cast all performing a Bollywood song and dance moment choreographed by Bollywood choreographer/director/actress Farah Khan, attempting to make the audience believe in a peace has been restored and the villains are no longer bad.
Overall the film shows that Jackie Chan still has the charm, skills and screen presence. The film was released in China in-time for the Chinese New Year release and is aimed mainly at Chinese market who have contributed to the films high earnings at the local box office. As for international audiences, Jackie’s darker film The Foreigner with Pierce Brosnan, which will be released later this year and was filmed in London and Shanghai, should be more everyone’s cup of tea.
Kung-Fu Yoga is now out in UK cinemas.