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Kung Fu Dunk (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 15, 2010 by  



Unless you are a big fan of the various pop stars in “Kung Fu Dunk”, the film suffers from a weak plot and bad utilization of its characters.

Image © 2008 Emperor Motion Picture (International Ltd).  2009 Showbox Media Group Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kung Fu Dunk

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Dolby Digital Chinese 2.0 Mandarin, Chinese 5.1 Mandarin & English 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Showbox/Cine Asia

RATED: Suitable only for people 15 years and over (Contains moderate martial arts violence and bloody injury)

RELEASE DATE: July 13, 2008

Directed by Kevin Chu

Action Director: Tony Ching Siu-Tung

Written by Kevin Chu, Lam Chu-Wing, Anne Wang

Executive Producer: Albert Yeung, Wu Tun, Ren Zhonglun

Producers: Albert Lee, Xu Pengle, Fargo Pi

Associate Producers: Wang Tianyun, Wade C. Yaho, Jennifer Chang, Catherine Fu

Director of Photography: Zhao Xiaoding

Edited by Chen Po-Wen

Music by Ko Ishikawa

Costume Designer: Shirley Chan

Production Designer: Yee Chung-Man

Starring:

Jay Chou as Fang Shijie

Eric Tsang as Zhen Li (Uncle)

Gang Wang

Charlene Choi as Lily

Wilson Chen as Ting Wei

Baron Chen as Xiao Lan

Wang Gang as Wang Biao

Will Liu as Li Tian

Ng Man Tat as Master Wu

Bryan Leung as Master Fei

Eddy Ko as Shi Jie’s Master

Kenneth Tsang as Wang Yi Wan

Yen-ping Chu

Orphaned from birth, Jay is raised in a martial arts school, and becomes a prodigious master in the ancient art of Kung Fu. When he is expelled for overshadowing his teachers in an epic showdown, he quickly learns that lightning fast reflexes are good for more than just fighting, and agrees to play for the college basketball team in exchange for information on his long-lost family. After a dazzling display of backboard-breaking slam-dunks, alley-oops and gravity-defying circus-shots, he emerges triumphant as the team’s new star-player. However, when faced with a headlong race to the finals against a team of legendary brutality, he soon discovers that skill alone will not bring home the gold… Showcasing the breathtaking talents of one of action-cinema’s brightest new stars, Kung Fu Dunk delivers a high-velocity, hoop-tastic thrill-ride that will have you cheering for overtime!

I can easily remember the hype that was built around “Kung Fu Dunk”.

First the announcement of pop star Jay Chou playing the lead character and then word that the film would be based on the Japanese manga/anime series “Slam Dunk” caught  the attention of many who were familiar with the series.

But then things changed and the next thing we heard is that the film would be like a “Shaolin Soccer” and feature Kung Fu with basketball.  Needless to say, it sounds unusual but “Shaolin Soccer” was an enjoyable film that you just have to sit back and see what Director Kevin Chu and writers Kevin Wu, Lam Chiu-Wing and Anne Wang had put together.    And the collaboration of Taiwan, Hong Kong and even mainland Chinese talent definitely raised the curiosity of fans of the various talent in the film.

“Kung Fu Dunk” is about an orphaned boy named Fang Shi Jie (played by Jay Chou).  When he was a baby, someone left him with a homeless man.  The homeless man gave the baby to a Kung Fu instructor and at this school is where Fang would be raised.

But one day, his instructor/master was experimenting with a technique and somehow ended up freezing himself to death.  With his master gone, Fang would grow up to become the punching bag by the principal of the school.  And one day when he was to be the punching bag by the principal, Fang played the part right but because he wore a Shaolin iron vest, the principal was upset and kicked Fang out of the school for the night without dinner.

Depressed about not eating, Fang hung out in the city and started throwing cans from a long distance right into a garbage can.  This catches the eye of the down-and-out street hustler Wang Li (played by Eric Tsang).  Wang challenges Fang to throw a coin in his throat from a long distance and if he can, Wang would take him out for dinner.   And Fang does just that and thus, gets a free dinner for the night.

Because of his skill, Wang comes up with an idea to use Fang to win some money at a local gambling club via bet of darts.  Fang keeps winning by throwing the darts directly at the center of the target and because he had won so much money, the local triad boss, Brother Hu has his men try to take back the money from Wang.  But Fang, being raised from a Kung Fu school ends up defeating every gangster at the club (and also destroying it).

What Fang doesn’t know is that the Kung Fu school’s owners are working for Brother Hu and are being paid by him.  Because one of their students has caused considerable damage at the triad boss club, Fang is punished and beaten by his teachers and is expelled from the school.

With nowhere to go, Wang takes him in and decides to use his talent by having him join the First University basketball team.  Fang meets the girl of his dreams, manager Lily (played by pop star/actress Charlene Choi) and her brother Ting Wei (played by Bo-Lin Chen), the captain of the team.  Fang learned that the Captain hasn’t been the same after losing an important championship match against a former teammate and has now become an alcoholic. But Fang learns that although he has talent because of his shooting technique and martial arts training, he doesn’t have the basketball discipline.

So, the Captain Ting Wei and their slam dunk expert Xiao Lan (played by Baron Chen) teach him the value of teamwork and how to improve his game and hope they can make it to the basketball championships and get revenge against their former teammate and now rival Li Tian (played by Will Liu) who leads a team of martial arts brutes.

VIDEO:

“Kung Fu Dunk” is presented in 1080p.  For the most part, the picture quality looks very good on Blu-ray and much better than its DVD counterpart.  Blacks are nice and deep, I didn’t notice any aliasing or compression artifacts but for the most part, the PQ was very solid for this release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Where the Blu-ray shines in PQ, unfortunately this 2008 Blu-ray release is missing a lossless soundtrack.  Not sure why but “Kung Fu Dunk” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Mandrarin and English Dolby Digital 5.1.  The audio quality is fine, but the fact that the audio is not lossless is a bit of a letdown, especially since the film has its share of action sequences.   The Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 track is good but the English dub is on par with a lot of the English dubs for Asian films these days.  It’s not my preference but I did re-watch the film in English and for the most part, it works.

As for subtitles, subtitles are presented in English and the good news is that I didn’t notice any bad subtitling errors or anything problematic.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kung Fu Dunk” comes with the following special features:

Please note: This is an all-region Blu-ray but there are times with European Blu-ray special features will not work on American Region A players.  For “Kung Fu Dunk”, I was able to play the special features with no problems.

  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (1:36) The original theatrical trailer.
  • Interview Gallery – Featuring interviews with Jay Chou (11:49), Charlene Choi (7:31), Kevin Chu (5:26), Zhao Xiaoding (1:32), Lichun Lee (2:47), Ni Yan (2:03), Ka-Yan Leung (1:02), Gang Wang (1:41), Chen Bo-lin (3:14), Eric Tsang (4:34), Wu Tun (4:22), Baron Chen (4:01), Shaun Tam (1:33), Bo Huang (:52), Man Tat Ng (2:21) and Jacky Wu (2:51).   Subtitles are in English for the interviews.
  • Behind-the-Scenes – The following behind-the-scene features are in five parts: The Action (7:05), The Stunts (2:52), Training with the Bus (1:03), Shooting on the Streets (2:16) and Shooting Hoops (3:13).
  • Storyboard – (:51) Featuring the hand drawn, digital and printed storyboards.
  • Lost Scenes – Featuring two behind-the-scenes footage not used in the final cut: Cheerleaders (:39) and Punishment (:44).
  • Just For Fun – (3:00) Featuring Jay Chou playing the piano and having fun on the set.

First, let me just say that I was really looking forward to this film.  As a big fan of music from Jay Chou and even TWINS member Charlene Choi, I felt that their pairing would be something unique and enjoyable.  And as a fan of Eric Tsang and seeing how he was there for HK actor Nicholas Tse when he first started out on film, I figured that Tsang would be a wonderful father-like figure for Jay Chou’s character in “Slam Dunk”.

But when I heard that the film was going to be more like “Shaolin Soccer”, my skepticism for the film reached it’s peak.  I couldn’t fathom it.  If anything, memories of the video game “NBA Jam” came to mind and I imagined there would be high flying, crazy looking slam dunks and after watching this film, I was right.

The good news is that some action sequences were quite entertaining and the cameo by a few of the stars from “Shaolin Soccer” making their appearance on “Kung Fu Dunk” was pretty cool.  But unfortunately, the plot of the film is extremely kitschy.  After seeing Chou in “Initial D”, I figured that this film would bring him more emotional depth but he’s playing a stoic character and if anything, putting the talent in a martial arts position.  Nothing wrong with that, since it’s common to see this in films, especially HK films.

But the build-up to the battle against the rivals wasn’t as impressive as “Shaolin Soccer”.  You felt the emotion of when the team was beaten by their rivals.  In “Kung Fu Dunk”, everything was all over the place and to make things worse was the inclusion of “time travel” via martial arts.

Unfortunately, unless you are a hardcore fan of Jay Chou, Charlene Choi or any of the talent…”Kung Fu Dunk” is a film that has its few enjoyable moments but mostly moments because of a badly written screenplay that the characters are not well-utilized, too many variables thrown in and as mentioned, everything looked like it was all over the place.

Where “Shaolin Soccer” focused on team dynamics, taking on a bad team and a relationship angle for the protagonist, in “Kung Fu Dunk”, the viewer has to deal with not just those elements but also a relationship between Fang and Wang, Fang looking for his real parents, the inclusion of his martial arts teachers in a basketball match (which was not done well at all) and did I mention “time travel”.  “Shaolin Soccer” kept things simple and utilized its characters effectively, director Kevin Chu may have been the action director of “Shaolin Soccer” but somehow his directorial effort in this film was poorly executed and part of it has to do with its ambitious screenplay of trying to have so many characters with too many variables.

As for the Blu-ray, you do get a lot of special features and a good looking film but unfortunately no lossless track.  Granted, I can chalk that up to this being a 2008 release (and its Hollywood counterparts doing the same thing for their older Blu-ray releases).

Overall, “Kung Fu Dunk” is a film that I was longing to see and in the end, I felt disappointed.  I’ve read that there will be a sequel and I can only hope that the writing for the film is much better than the first.






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