On Blu-ray: The Knight of Shadows

There’s a tradition in Chinese cinema unfamiliar to most Western moviegoers — the Lunar New Year movie. Similar to the West’s Christmas movies, these are often larger, crowd-pleasing attractions — usually with big name stars — that can be romantic comedies, action movies, you name it. Indeed, Marvel will soon join the ranks of the New Year movie with Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings set for release during the Chinese New Year of 2021. There have been some really terrific Lunar New Year movies (just as there have been some great Christmas movies), a particular favorite being Johnnie To’s excellent Fat Choi Spirit (a hilarious tale of mahjong gambling with comedy, heart and plenty of Hong Kong film send-ups) in which all the actors play characters named the same as themselves (Andy Lau is Andy, etc).

This is a very long, roundabout way of introducing you to The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang and giving you some context for its release and why it even exists. So we have Jackie Chan in a very broad role in some ancient Chinese setting. And that part isn’t so bad, as far as these things go. There’s a really good movie here where Chan is a whimsical scholar who hunts bad demons and teaches good ones with his bumbling sidekick. I dig that movie and found it charming as heck. Chan is a natural star with charisma to spare that you can see here.

The problem is there’s also a bad movie here that finds two lovers (played by actors of no real note) something something demons and soul orb and god, they have no chemistry and it’s so boring and wow really? here’s a Dragon Ball no-name-brand CGI finale and just please stop.

This part of Knight of Shadows was also a good (great) movie once, when it was called A Chinese Ghost Story. You should honestly just watch that instead. The non-Jackie parts of Knight of Shadows are so bland that the whole film just kind of melts away, and I would be surprised to say if I could have remembered anything but a few images from it after finishing the film. Sadly, this is a truly forgettable Lunar New Year movie, made to capitalize on its big-name star during the holidays. See, cinema really does unite the world and show how much we have in common. It’s a shame that WellGo released Knight of Shadows instead of the much-better Lunar New Year movie from 2019, Stephen Chow’s The New King of Comedy.

As it happens, Lunar New Year is almost upon us (25 Jan for 2020). Why not watch an excellent Chinese film instead. Perhaps the Ip Man trilogy for some Donnie Yen kung-fu action? Johnnie To for the auteur fans amongst you (he does crime flicks and rom-coms!). Or some Zhang Yimou if you want gorgeous pictures to look at. Or just maybe dig out that old Criterion of In the Mood for Love. Hell, your local cinema might be showing Detective Chinatown 3, Rescue or Enter the Fat Dragon (yes, with Donnie Yen) this New Year season. No matter what, take time to celebrate the wonderful works of Chinese cinema this Lunar New Year, just maybe not with Knight of Shadows.


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