Kungfu League (2018) Hongkong
Jeff Lau hasn’t made anything funny after directing A Chinese Odyssey 1 and 2 with Stephen Chow. That was in 1994. Jeff Lau was also the one who produced Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express and Ashes of Time. In A Chinese Odyssey, he took the nonsensical gags to the extreme, which went from parodying entire lines of dialogue from Wong Kar Wai’s movies to an effeminate Buddhist monk(The monk that was sent to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures from India to ease the country of suffering in the book “Journey to the West”) singing “Only You” by The Platters in Cantonese. I’m not fucking joking. To top it off, it was sung by Law Kar Ying, a classically trained Chinese Opera singer.
Amidst all the nonsense, he somehow managed to spin a tale with the Buddhist ideas of repetition, detachment and futility disguised as a epic period love story that ends in either tragedy or the attainment of nirvana depending on how you look at it. The audience wept. I’m not making this up. They went from howling with laughter to literally weeping at the closing scenes. It was recognized as a postmodern masterpiece by people who actually appreciate movies and a disposable piece of crap by worthless, self-important critics. It’s 25 years later and people are still making references to the dialogue in A Chinese Odyssey in Asia and expressing shock at how they were overcome with feelings of profound sadness and loss at the ending.
But why the fuck am I talking about a movie made in 1994? Because the movie I just watched is a product of what you get when you want to appeal to a market like China where socialism has created a completely different culture that does not appreciate nuance. It’s an empty shell of what made Hong Kong movies so special especially during the time of much social tension pre-1997(The Handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China). Because socialism has destroyed so much of Chinese values and culture and selectively rewritten so many parts of history and religion that people in China won’t get any kind of subtext that Jeff Lau is so good at slipping into his movies other than “RICH PEOPLE ARE BAD”. That’s why you sell them big explosions and lots of CGI. But at least it’s fucking funnier than Jeff Lau’s previous films in the last 20 years. For the people who complain about Americans loving big, dumb action flicks, you ain’t seen the SHIT you can sell to a Chinese audience yet.
However, with the gradual economic and social liberalization along with the internet(and VPNS), the older movies have found an audience in the current generation of youths growing up. That’s why a Jeff Lau movie is finally funny. Because the best of his gags rely on nuance and social references.
So, for fans of Hong Kong cinema, this is a movie probably worth watching. It’s a dumb parody of a couple of old movie heroes from Chinese folklore - Wong Fei Hung(Once Upon a Time in China), Huo Yuanjia(Fearless), Chen Zhen(Fist of Fury) and Ip Man(alright, this guy was real). The dude that replaced Jet Lee as Wong Fei Hung in Once Upon a Time in China 4, 5 and 6 even plays said character. It’s nothing close to anything produced in the 90’s but it’s funny as fuck. But it’s the best we can get nowadays.