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It used to be that any old piece of martial arts crap would do. Didn't matter about the piss poor dubbing. No one cared about the bad cropping and free form editing style. No, as long as a fan got to see that rarified glimpse of Asian action, all was right with the world. After all, home video was a fledgling force back then and product was product. Grab some full screen scam, add in the necessary Western words, and plunk on an intriguing title card (King of Kung Fu, Master of Dragon Fighting) and you'd find an audience, any audience. Desperate consumers shouldn't be considered. Beggars, in other words, couldn't be choosers. Now, some three decades into the whole VHS/DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming reality, junk can't be labeled as legend. People will care. They don't want any old chop socky shite. They want quality. They want The Shaw Brothers. They want ANYTHING other than something as silly and sloppy as Shaolin Warrior. To say this movie is a letdown is to argue against the last 50 years of Hong Kong filmmaking, this sorry excuse for same only adding massive fuel to an already raging OAR fire.
Lionsgate honestly believes fans of the genre will want to watch this unadorned claptrap. They bought the rights to something called Kungfu Kid, changed the name, and spruced up with cover with clipart straight out of the Weinstein's Dynasty Collection. Digging a bit deeper, it's clear that the concept of homemade movies and independent production (read: digital cameras and laptop editing suites) has hit the beloved kung fu flick. This cheap looking, over the top production plays like a cartoon encapsulated in a sizzle reel. Nothing makes sense and is merely a set up for more mediocre fight choreography. The story centers, kind of, on a young lad who wants to enter the Shaolin temple. Problem is, he's a criminal. He's also horribly inept. He fails to gain entry, but ends up working as a groundskeeper for a nearby palace. He is eventually tracked down by the King of Chu, who carries a horrible secret. Naturally, truths are revealed and our lame lad discovers enough action skill to keep this movie from being a 90 minute experience in meaninglessness.
Shaolin Warrior is shockingly bad. It's like watching an American teenagers idea of what a martial arts movie is like without said adolescent ever having seen an actual example of the artform itself. From the horrible tech specs (more on this later) to the scenery chewing performances, it's literally like experiencing something from another planet. The entire production feels cheap and made on the fly, like those Super VHS horror movies from the 1980s spruced up with a bit of digital dressing. While the technology for making such a homemade effort has clearly gotten better over the years, there is still no excuse for releasing something that actually plays like it was forged out of some wannabe's wet dreams. We might be able to forgive this mess if it was original, if director Dou Xiao had something unique or inventive to offer. Instead, this is like a final exam in martial arts movies, a series of references and half-baked homages that never come across as anything other than loud, staged, and stupid.
Here's an odd thing - while watching this sorry excuse for a film, yours truly was constantly reminded of one thing: Tyler Perry. I know, I know, that's weird right? Well, hear me out. In Hollywood, Tyler Perry is considered the king of niche filmmaking. Though his movies rarely crossover to a demographic beyond that which was intended, he still manages to make money by recycling old genre tropes to create marketable product. Shaolin Warrior is the very same thing. It's geared toward the viewer who has rarely seen a martial arts movie, but understands the clip show basics. It has the fighting. It has the choreographed tricks. It has the old honor vs. duty dynamic. But just like Perry, it lacks polish. It lacks polish big time. Imagine a college kid trying to be their own version of the Madea Maverick and you hopefully get the point. Shaolin Warrior wants to be a traditional mainstream movie. Everything about it, however, screams shortcuts and subterfuge.
Offered up by Lionsgate (who should treat the fanbase better), this derivative DVD barely passes the tech spec checks. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image is blurry, fuzzy, and definitely not from film. In fact, one can see the attempts to give this movie some celluloid scope throughout. It doesn't work. Neither does the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. In either English (laughable) or native Mandarin (at least they offered a Chinese language option), the sound situation is cramped and tinny. And naturally, outside of a trailer gallery, this disc offers no added content (not that any bonus feature worth its weight would make this experience enjoyable).
FINAL THOUGHTS: Skip It. That's all that really can be said. There's no reason to spend any time or money on a movie made on the cheap, with little redeeming artistic or entertainment value, and is clearly being crammed into the market to make a few bucks. No matter what you call it - Shaolin Warrior, Kungfu Kid - it's still a sham.
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