Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Myth

THE MYTH (2005)

Directed by: Stanley Tong
Screenplay: Stanley Tong, Hai-shu Li, Hui-Ling Wang
Starring: Jackie Chan, Tony Leung Kai Fai, Hee-seon Kim, Mallika Sherawat, Ken Lo, Rongguang Yu

In between Hollywood projects, Jackie Chan still returns to Hong Kong to make pictures more akin to those he was churning out in the 80s and early 90s. Now, The Myth is nowhere near as good as Chan’s golden era classics or even recent Hong Kong efforts like The Shinjuku Incident and the awesome New Police Story but it gets an A for effort. Re-teaming with director Stanley Tong, the pair having made some of Chan’s best films including Rumble in the Bronx and Police Story 3: Supercop, Chan attempts to craft a daring adventure that spans two periods of time, is a love story and features lots of inventive fight action. As a result, and non-surprisingly, it’s a mixed bag.

In present day Hong Kong, Chan plays Jack an archaeologist who is having dreams that he was once a fierce General in dynasty times protecting the Emperor’s wife, Ok Soo (Hee-seon Kim). Believing this may be a past life, Jack’s dreams become more vivid so much so that when his scientist friend William (Tony Leung) asks for his help on a quest to the find and bring back the source of levitation (or something!), Jack’s past life may come crashing into his present one. So, a jaunt to India, frequent flashbacks to his past life, some modern days goons worked in for Chan to fight and lots of mumbo jumbo about love, levitation and immortality and we are almost back to golden era Chan. Almost.

Too many ideas and concepts thrown together, much like a 80s Chan fight flick but with none of the fun flair. That’s not entirely true as The Myth is entertaining in fits and starts but is just too bloated for its own good. Its always nice to see a more serious Jackie Chan, actually acting a bit as well as fighting, but he and the film just takes themselves too seriously. The constant flashbacks between the past and present become jarring and never quite fit together, the scenes set in the past somewhat confusing and over complicating matters. Or maybe just a tad boring meaning I wasn't paying much attention. The period detail is excellent and often epic in nature but despite everything connecting at the end (sort of), The Myth often feels like two films in one: the big, period epic about war and love and the modern day adventure with lots of knockabout fun. I would have preferred just the modern day knockabout adventure.

The film certainly looks good and Chan and Tong were obviously going for a big adventure but everything just feels a little undercooked and rushed. Too many characters often clog up the screen and the film is unfortunately let down by sub par CGI, especially in the second half of the film. Too much spectacle is thrown at the screen with CGI that doesn’t convince and mars a lot of the big set pieces including several big battle scenes and the final showdown which, admittedly, is set in a visually stunning setting but all the fight action hampered by the aforementioned sub par CGI.

However, The Myth is entertaining in parts and thankfully features a good helping of excellent fight action. While a lot of the later action is too CGI influenced the first half of the film features some vintage Chan styled action, seeing him cut loose in a series of creative fights. A fight centred around a large coffin with two spear wielding guards, is fast, furious and inventive the comedy flowing with the action. Likewise, and the film’s best set piece, a fight in a glue factory is pure Chan and so creative it shows the man still has some tricks left up his sleeve. There is also a bravura action scene featuring Chan taking on an entire army which is bloody and brutal and Chan even gets a little scrap with the great Ken Lo (though don’t go expecting anything like their incredible dual at the end of Drunken Master 2).

Not a complete write off but far from Chan greatness, The Myth gets by on its own good looking terms and its ample amount of real and inventive fight action. It’s just a pity the rest of the action is marred by ropey CGI and the story is just too much of a mish-mash to be really engaging. Still a lot better than Chan’s recent Hollywood output and not a bad effort considering the guy is getting on a bit now but far from the great adventure flick it could have been.

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