January 19, 2020


The hours that must have been spent on that tagline.
Starring Jackie Chan, Zhong Chuxi, Ethan Juan, Lin Peng, Austin Lin. Directed by Jia Yan (aka Vash). (109 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😼

Though it isn’t shown anywhere on the cover or in the opening credit sequence, The Knight of Shadows apparently carries the subtitle, Between Yin and Yang, which might also describe this review of the film itself….

First, the “yin” (the negative): 
The film may feature Jackie Chan, but a far cry from the Chan we’ve grown to know and love. Where he was once his own special effect, here he’s literally surrounded by CGI almost the entire time. Nor does he display the personality or formidable physical skills we’re used to seeing. Granted, age catches up with all of us and I don’t expect him to be leaping across rooftops anymore, but that was never all he had going for him. Chan is a charming comic actor, but really, his role as a demon hunter could have been played by anybody.

The writing is sometimes terrible. Characters often explain their predicaments as they are happening, as if the audience is too dumb to figure it out on their own. Likewise, they announce their actions before actually doing them, sort of like those old Saturday morning superhero cartoons from the ‘70s.

Some of Chan’s animated assistants are horrid creations, namely “Gassy,” who paralyzes demons with his farts. It’s a blatant and stupid attempt to pander to the kiddie crowd with bathroom humor. And yes, he announces in-advance when he’s planning to use his power, because the very word fart is apparently very funny.

Jackie gets hammered.
Now the “yang” (the positive):

On the other hand, the story itself isn’t bad. Chan plays Pu Songling, who vanquishes demons by using his trusty yin & yang brush, which traps them in a book. Once there, they are unable to reincarnate, banished to a nether world. One particularly hungry demon, Xiaoqian (Zhong Chuxi), feeds on young girls’ souls to stay alive, while her ex-lover and former demon himself, Caichen (Ethan Juan), pleads for Pu to help return her to human form. After a woefully shaky start, this turns into a pretty engaging story.

Though I think most would agree Chan is underused, the rest of the cast is pretty decent. Juan and Chuxi make an aesthetically appealing set of doomed lovers, while Lin Bo-hong has a few amusing moments as a bumbling lawman-turned-apprentice.

Visually, there’s a lot of imagination at work. The production design is suitably lush, vibrant and colorful, enhancing the whimsical setting. The extensive CGI gives most scenes an artificial quality, but at the same time, that’s part of what makes it interesting to look at. The climax, where the major characters clash in the demon world, is a dizzying spectacle that might be a little over-the-top, but is certainly entertaining.

Ultimately, The Knight of Shadows is far-removed from vintage Jackie Chan. Some characters and narrative elements are almost distressingly bad, particularly during the first act. But if one’s able to slog through the lame slapstick and fart gags, the rest of the film has some moments that might be worth the effort. Yin and yang indeed.


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