Once known as LAST OF THE BEST or KUNG FU KILLER (both very appropriately named), the actual title KUNG FU JUNGLE takes a more metaphorical approach than a literal one. There is no actual ‘jungle’ in the film. Hong Kong IS the ‘jungle’, the setting of the movie where all the crazy martial arts meyhem ensues as main villain played WANG BAOQIANG (Iceman) goes after all the top martial arts badasses in town (including Ip Man’s FAN SIU WONG and Flashpoint’s XING YU) to become the BEST of the BEST. This is when our main man DONNIE YEN (serving time for accidently killing a man) comes into the picture to help the cops capture this maniac in return for his release from prison.
The plot is fairly simple. It is pretty much exactly like 1997’s ‘Bloodmoon’ (starring Gary Daniels and the late Darren Shahlavi) but with martial arts philosophy and principles thrown into the mix.
But enough with the story, lets get into the ACTION. After such wired-filled duds such as ‘The Monkey King’ and ‘Iceman’, DONNIE YEN is BACK to making the kind of film that all of his hardcore fans have been salivating for: grounded action ala ‘SPL’ and ‘Flashpoint’. ‘Special ID’ was a nice attempt, but did not exactly hit the mark due to its poor direction and plot. But with ‘Kung Fu Jungle’…man oh man…lets just say the YENSTER is definitely BACK.
With the help of STEPHEN WAI, YUAN BIN, YAN HUA, & JOHN SALVITTI (who was uncredited for his work in the ‘prison fight’ pictured above) combined with amazing direction from TEDDY CHEN (Bodyguards & Assassins), Yen stages some of the most exciting martial arts action of his career ranging from a group fight in a jail house, kicking and grappling, to weapons including swords and bamboo sticks. Granted, there are SOME wire-work, but not overly-used to the point where it is cringe worthy.
To my surprise, Yen actually takes a backseat to co-star Baoqiang as most of the action throughout the film involves Baoqiang. Baoqiang is a real life martial artist who actually trained at the Shaolin Temple, so he is more than capable to perform in all of his amazing fight scenes.
Lets not kid ourselves though. We go to watch this film to see Donnie Yen throw it down and do what he does best. He have about two main fights and some small scuffles throughout the film. When Yen does appear on-screen, he steals every scene with his charisma and screen presence.
Do not even get me started on the FINALE fight between Yen and Baoqiang. It is ten thrilling minutes of hand-to-hand combat, grappling, AND weapons (bamboo sticks). This is hands down one of Yen’s BEST fight scenes to date rivaling even his epic showdown with superstar Jet Li in the classic ‘Once Upon A Time In China 2′. And THAT is sayin’ something!
‘Kung Fu Jungle’ is one hell of a solid martial arts flick that pays respect to all the greats in the genre (via cameos) including the late LAU KAR LEUNG, JACKIE CHAN, BRUCE LAW, DAVID CHIANG, and many more.
Most importantly, this film shows that even at over 50 years old, Yen is still goin’ strong. Now that alone should put smiles on a lot of martial arts fan’s faces.