With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

THE KNIGHT OF SHADOWS reviewed; available today from Well Go USA

Well Go USA
The Knight of Shadows / Shen tan Pu Song Ling
Directed by Jia Yan (a.k.a. Vash)
China, 2019, 109 minutes

The Knight of Shadows (a.k.a. The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang), the newest action-comedy from Jackie Chan, debuts today on Digital, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD from Well Go USA Entertainment. I watched the Blu-ray version.

Chan stars as Pu Songling, a legendary demon hunter who tracks down beasts that enter the human dimension, assisted by a lawman protégé and a motley group of friendly monsters. Most specifically, Pu is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearances of young girls from a small village. When he discovers evil forces are kidnapping the girls to feast on their souls, he sets out to save humanity from the inhuman invasion journeying through hidden worlds and colorful dimensions in this fantastical martial arts action-comedy.

First off, I must say that I immensely appreciate Chan and his incredible contributions to Asian cinema, especially in terms of action and comedy. I had the great fortune of attending all three events at which he appeared in New York when he received the Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award at the New York Asian Film Festival in June, 2013. He even signed my copy of his autobiography, I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action.

That aside, Jackie is nearing his 66th birthday, and simply can't do what he used to. And at times it shows in this film. I'm thinking, for example, of a set-piece in which he fights off a number of peace officers who are being controlled by a demon. There's the kind of moves using a chair that fans will be familiar with, but they're much less complex and vigorous then what we used to see, a shadow of their former selves. Others may not notice this, or care if they do, but I was saddened to see moves that I thought brought out when Chan used to be able to pull off but no longer can.

On the other side, some things do come off very well. Of lesser significance is Chan's face, which seems to have been digitally de-aged, somewhat like what was done to De Niro and others when they played younger versions of themselves in Scorsese's The Irishman. On the more positive side, there's a terrific scene in which Pu faces off against a female demon in a room filled with mirrors. It's snappy, well-edited and the effects are top notch.

Personally I hope that Jackie will continue to make action-comedies. Straight dramas have always been beyond his range and natural talents, and straight, heavy action films are now beyond his physical capabilities.

The Knight of Shadows is a period piece, and personally I prefer Chan's action-comedies set in contemporary times, such as Chinese Zodiac (2012) and Kung Fu Yoga (2017). While both Chan's period and his contemporary action-comedy films may have more faults and be less spectacular than earlier films made when Jackie was much more fit and able, I find them pretty much delightful.

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
    -- Mandarin DTS-HDMA 5.1
    -- Mandarin Stereo
    -- English DTS-HDMA 5.1
    -- English Stereo
-- Subtitles
    -- English
    -- Off
-- The Knight of Shadows trailers
    -- Teaser (English Dub)
    -- Trailer A (International Version)
    -- Trailer A (English Dub)
    -- Trailer B (International Version)
    -- Trailer B (English Dub)
-- Previews
    -- Kung Fu Monster
    -- Ne Zha
    -- Kung Fu League

All-in-all, The Knight of Shadows is a pleasant martial arts, action-comedy, most definitely worth watching.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (good)

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