Directed by: Lau Kar-Leung | 111 minutes | action | Actors: Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Lo Lieh, Lau Kar-Wing, Wilson Tong Wai-Shing, Wong Yue, Lee Hoi-Sang, Wai Wang, Henry Yu Yang, Hon Gwok-Choi, Simon Yuen Hsiao-Tien, Austin Wai Tin-Chi
When you hear a term like “monks” you quickly think of slightly overweight European men who do nothing more than calligraph the god’s day and drink their homemade wine. To break the routine, the company wants to occasionally record a CD full of Gregorian songs. The kung fu film “The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin” proves that it can be done differently. The Chinese monks in this production do not like alcohol and literature, the group of clergy prefer to engage in sadistic training.
In “The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin” we are introduced to San Te (Liu). The boy hasn’t had an easy time since the Tartars invaded his village. The occupiers rule with an iron fist and do not look at a dead person more or less. When Te’s parents are murdered by the gang, the boy decides to flee. San finds shelter in a Shaolin temple where he learns kung fu. The monks from the temple turn out to be formidable fighters, but are not allowed to use their techniques outside the temple. Te trains himself dull and decides to use his arts against the Tartars against the rules.
The film currently being discussed comes from the shed of the “Shaw brothers”. The purveyor of the kung fu film. The brothers have canned hundreds of fight films in a short time, many of which enjoy true cult status. Similarly, “The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin”. The cover of the DVD therefore prominently states that Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of the film. Very well, of course, but don’t forget that Tarantino likes just about any obscure movie. A clever marketing trick to get the American director to trot, but it doesn’t say much.
Tarantino or not, “The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin” doesn’t need slick recommendations. The film can proudly stand on its own two feet and the true kung fu freak will find his / her way to this great film. Because this production is certainly nice. The stunts and beautiful decoration of Lau Kar-Leung’s production are of an unprecedented high level. The director has succeeded in achieving the maximum result with minimal means.
The linchpin of the film is the talent of lead actor Gordon Liu. The Chinese actor is a fantastic athlete who performs one superhuman effort after another seemingly effortlessly. Liu treats you to his exceptional body control, heraldry and hypothermic acting. We see Liu training in the Shaolin camp. The man wields heavy weapons, makes acrobatic jumps and is water-fast. The actor’s somewhat haunted head creates a melancholic impression, which brings out the drama (his character’s parents have been murdered).
The fight scenes look great. The camera captures all the action well. The Chinese landscape full of rocks, rustic meadows and sober villages also looks beautiful. The scenes in the temple are also well cared for. We see Liu running over thin stumps, carrying heavy buckets and handling heavy sticks. The hardships Tan Se has to endure are intense and impressive. Not bad if you consider that the set pieces do not always come across as credible. The weapons are clearly made of plastic, for example. The strange sound effects are also not convincing. For example, punches sound a bit exaggerated and the props also want to make strange and cheesy sounds.
The acting is solid. Most of the cast delivers a good game, although an overacting Chinese sometimes wants to sneak in. Since the performances rely mainly on the physical abilities of the cast, the play of the lesser gods is never really disturbing. Liu is not a natural talent either, but his powerful appearance pays off a lot. Before you know it, you empathize with Liu’s character.
It should be clear: if you like kung fu then you should not miss “The 36th Chamber of the Shaolin”. You will not easily find a more energetic and better fighting film. In addition, the film shows that Chinese monks are really not as dull as you might think. The total abstainers may then leave the bottle, they will not be bored. They also save you those annoying Gregorian songs.