Indian and Chinese culture combine in Kung Fu Yoga to bring an action movie which has slightly more depth than most of the ones we see.
Jack is one of China’s top archaeologist and a woman named Ashmita approaches him to help uncover the treasure of Magadha. What should be a simple request, one beneficial to both Chinese and Indian relations, turns into a battle. You see, Ashmita is a representative, a princess, of the Gitanjali people and her adversary Randall is the last descendent of Arunasva – a family which betrayed the Gitanjali. For reasons perhaps graced over but never dived into deep enough for you ever to feel for Randall and his family.
But, in pursuit of the treasure of Magadha, they clash in hand to hand combat, car chases, through auctions, and even involve lions and hyenas. Thus creating quite the adventure for viewers to vicariously experience.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- How in the world didn’t Randall die, or get caught, after that chase scene in Dubai?
- How come Jack didn’t need CPR after seemingly beginning to drown while they were trying to escape Randall’s attempt to make Jack, Ashmita, and their associates, freeze to death?
Whooping Ass & Getting Laughs
What we get in Kung Fu Yoga is classic Jackie Chan fare. There are a lot of acrobats, moves which, even with sound effects added in, seem like they hurt like hell, alongside light hearted comedy. The kind which is placed in to lighten up the mood a bit.
But, it isn’t just Jackie who gets to whoop ass, as always, his co-stars, including the women, take out a lot of Randall’s men. Now, the women, a lot of the time, play damsel in distress who Jackie, and co-stars, usually sling around like objects, but at times they fight on their own without the men. Not till the later half of the film, but something is better than nothing.
A Sense of Culture
The majority of action films are about the explosions, the fight scenes, and cars being destroyed. With Kung Fu Yoga, however, it does seem like it wants to do more than present your usual action fare. It doesn’t want to just give you enough story to bridge the action scenes but seems to want to provide something for you to look into. For, at least when it comes to a lot of the action films I’ve seen, there isn’t much of a sense of culture.
Yes, they may go to exotic places, but the people are just there to serve, be shocked at what is happening or, at best, be villains. With this movie however, even though, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter [External], many Indian critics weren’t fond of how Indian people and culture were portrayed, a part of me wanted to disagree with the negative sentiment. Taking note that similar to Black culture, Indian culture has long been held to the stereotype of poverty and illiteracy, at the same time the names mentioned like General Bhuma, the area of Magadha, and more, draw attention to Indian’s past, especially in terms of their relations with China. Which, for those who didn’t take a history elective to learn about the two cultures, gives them reason to do a Google search, check out the Wikipedia page attached to these names, and maybe even read a book.
Something most action movies don’t push you to do at all.
The Animated Sequence Which Starts The Movie
Being that trailers spoil so much about a movie, I tend to avoid them and just watch based off their synopsis. So when the movie started with the story of Wang Xuance, an actual person, who was an ambassador for the Tang Dynasty, I was confused but very interested to see where this was going. After all, one of the major problems with the usual methods of learning history is that it seems made for those who were already searching for answers. It isn’t often made to push you to ask question and peaque your curiousity.
However, with the animated setup, it makes it so when we switch to live action, you want to see what may come of Jack and Ashmita’s journey, alongside their associates.
That Hour and 40 Minute Run Time Is Felt
As many directors have said, Netflix is not a conducive platform for movies. For TV shows which are a half hour, maybe an hour, yes. But a movie pushing nearly two hours? At least for folks like me, that is a hard thing to commit to. Especially since all movies come to a point when there is a rest period before the next storm and you get bored. Which, since you aren’t trapped in a theater, forced by social norms to not take out your phone or other means of killing time, you pause and do something else. Maybe even let the film run until something exciting happens again.
Which is a constant temptation since, like some of the Indian critics say, there isn’t a whole lot here which brings about a WOW factor, when it comes to the action. Yes, some of the stunts look painful but if you have seen enough Jackie Chan films, you don’t get surprised by anything him or his team does. Even the jokes, while they may make you chuckle, they don’t bring about any sense that this should be considered another classic Jackie Chan film.
In the long run, you just get the vibe that Jackie Chan enjoys making movies; this was the opportunity to be part of something big, it is one of the first major productions as part of the co-production treaty between China and India [Hollywood Reporter – External]; and it also allowed Chan to work with the man who was a big part in making him an international star: Stanley Tong.
Overall: Mixed (Divisive)
While you have to praise the film for bringing about the characters’ cultures to an action film, after a certain point, perhaps about 40 minutes in, you begin to start checking how much longer the movie is. For as much as the culture aspect boosts the story, it remains like most action movies which become a bore once you get used to the fight scenes, chases, and the occasional explosion. Hence the mixed label.
Stream or Buy: Here [External]