Pitch: I wasn't keen on watching Kung Fu Jungle. Donnie Yen's previous action flick Special ID and Wang Baoqiang's villainous role in The Fairy Tale Killer were pretty disappointing. But after a fellow movie buff friend's recommendation, I decided to this movie a chance and see how bad can it be.
Plot: Three years ago, Mo Hahou (Donnie Yen) surrendered himself to the police for accidentally killing marital arts opponent. In prison, he saw a news report about an unusual murder case and offer his aid to Inspector Luk Yuen-Sun (Charlie Young) to capture the killer in exchange for his freedom. Will they be able to stop the killer (Wang Baoqiang) who is on a vicious killing spree?
Perspective: Kung Fu Jungle turns out to be much better than I had anticipated. Right at the start, I knew that there's something special about Kung Fu Jungle. The numerous cameos and the manner that this movie romanticize with martial arts / kung fu made viewing this movie a wonderful treat. The end credits confirms my suspicion that this is a homage to the unappreciated crews that gave us years of enjoyable Hong Kong action movies. It was heartfelt and long overdue, specially in an era that Hong Kong action movies are even more at risk these days.
Donnie Yen performance was much better in Kung Fu Jungle than Together and Special ID. It was mainly due to the fact that the filmmakers in this movie knew how to play to his strength. It also made me realize that Donnie Yen has limited acting range. He tends to excel in roles that calls for a restrained personality (eg. his characters in Ip Man and Peter Chan's Wu Xia). But when he tries to take on emotional roles or a wilder range of personality (like a undercover cops), it tends to end up as a awkward mess.
Wang Baoqiang was surprisingly good too. His craziness was well control and it didn't go over the top like his previous role in The Fair Tale Killer. It made it easier to sympathize with his character.I don't think he is an action star but there were some scenes that I wonder how it was filmed. Did he performed the stunts or was it expertly choreographed / edited to make him look like a menacing martial arts killer?
However, there are some faults with Kung Fu Jungle. Realism in police procedures was obviously threw out of the window and certain aspects of the story was skim through without much thoughts. It felt like the focus was to tell a Silence of the Lamb-ish story with Kung Fu. It's not grounded in reality but Kung Fu Jungle provided an entertaining homage to the personals that made Hong Kong action movies great and for that, I am not going to nitpick much.