Review for The Shaolin Kids
Hu Weiyong is the Prime Minister in the Emperor’s court, but he would much rather be Emperor himself. He’s also not a popular man among his peers, although you might think that he’s trying to ingratiate himself when he visits one of his critics with a doctor in tow, offering to help the man’s insomnia. He’s really there to administer some poison though, and his first act after that is to kill the doctor, erasing the evidence. But as his target dies, he gives his daughter, Liu Xin-er a dying message, asking her to find the evidence to convict Hu Weiyong, and to save the Emperor. But the Prime Minister stays one step ahead of Liu, even if she has the help of the Shaolin temple, whose monks are sworn to deal with any traitor to the Emperor.
The Shaolin Kids gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with the choice of PCM 1.0 Mono Mandarin and English, with optional subtitles and signs. I’m going to sound like a broken record at this point, but the presentation here is very nice, clear and with lush and consistent colours. Signs of age and print damage are absent, and the only issue will be in the source material, the occasional softness brought about by a drift in focus. The Mandarin audio was fine, not too stressed at higher volumes and frequencies, while giving a rich enough audio experience. The subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos.
The audio commentary here is from Arne Venema and Mike Leeder.
It happened to me again. I had hoped that The 36 Styles would be the exception, but The Shaolin Kids wound up putting me under with its soporific narrative flow. It took me forty minutes longer than I had expected to watch this film, and the discontinuity was jarring enough to render it a disappointment. I think of all the films in this collection thus far, The Shaolin Kids is as clichéd and as traditional a seventies kung fu movie as you can hope for, without using the rival schools template.
Character development is as brief as you would expect, with the villainous Prime Minister Hu Weiyong evil and manipulative from the off, his henchmen just as twisted, while the heroes are justified and upright. These films have never been big on character nuance. Weiyong begins by eliminating a rival, but a rival who survives long enough to point his daughter in the direction of the culprit, further directing her to find the evidence and present it to the emperor, thus avenging him. While there are other members of the imperial court to assist, Weiyong is quick of the mark to eliminate his foes, meaning that there is just Lu Ding, the son of an ally for her to rely on. They become the Shaolin Kids of the title, although the Shaolin Temple monks in this film are committed to weeding out traitors to the imperial throne.
The story doesn’t focus on those monks though, instead using them as a trump card to be wielded during the kung fu frantic finale. The evidence that will incriminate the Prime Minister is in the form of a letter, detailing the plans for his coup, and a lot of the back and forth in the plot is over who possesses the letter. It’s all pretty generic, and really quite dull, as none of the main characters had that spark of personality to leap off the screen. Another thing that I found in this film, just like Shaolin Kung Fu, is that the protagonists lose so much over the course of the film, that any victory by the end is Pyrrhic at best.
Another thing to note are the plot holes, nay veritable plot gaps in the film, jarring to say the least. In one scene, a character’s father is waylaid by the villains, and the head monk of the temple offers to go look for him. The next scene the monk is back, a month has passed, and the father is forgotten. Judging by the films in this collection, the 90 minute runtime was a hard and fast rule for Joseph Kuo, but this is taking it too far.
The Shaolin Kids is the weakest of the films so far. A generic story and rather dull characters fail to make it stand out.
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