Justin Lin is certainly a familiar name to action fans, having directed the past four films in the “Fast and Furious” series, taking the franchise to new staggering heights of popularity. Now, Lin is set to dive head first in the martial arts filmmaking with the recently announced “Shaolin 3D”. The film, which will mark Lin’s first Chinese language movie, is said to be a remake of Jet Li’s debut film, “The Shaolin Temple”. With a budget in the range of $100 million, the film is supposedly intended as an epic adventure to set a new standard for Chinese martial arts films.
Surely, anyone who has seen the latter four “Fast and Furious” films will agree that Lin is a very capable action director on the whole, and “Fast and Furious 6” in particular showed Lin’s capabilities with martial arts action. The film pulled in MMA-champion Gina Carano and Indonesian Judo wunderkind Joe Taslim of “The Raid: Redemption“, showcasing some brilliant combat amid the automotive action. Moreover, Lin’s connection to the “Fast and Furious” series, quite possibly the biggest action film series in Hollywood today, could act as a bridge for Western audiences less familiar with the kinds of martial arts films to come out of China and Hong Kong. With any luck, that factor might be enough to land “Shaolin 3D” a wide theatrical release in English-speaking nations, and martial arts fans know all too well how often THAT happens (the upcoming wide theatrical release of “The Raid 2: Berandal” notwithstanding.)
Personally, I think this would also provide a great opportunity for some of the up and comers in martial arts films to have a chance to step into the spotlight (and perhaps take some of the weight off of Donnie Yen’s shoulders!). The recently released “Once Upon A Time In Shanghai” has earned rave reviews in Hong Kong and garnered huge amounts of praise for both Philip Ng and Andy On, both of whom possess the charisma and martial arts skill that the film would require. The same goes for Tiger Chen of “Man of Tai Chi”, whose blend of grace and power was what brought the film to life. However, given the Shaolin theme of the film, why not turn to some of the action actors who have had the privilege to study at the legendary monastery?
Ex-monk Zheng Liu made his feature film debut in the low-budget urban crime thriller “Blood Money”, and based on his performance would have no difficulty stepping into the big leagues. But looking a little closer to home, an obvious choice would be former monk Shi Yan Neng. He first made an impression with the role of Coolie in “Kung Fu Hustle”, and thereafter mostly appeared as villains or sidekicks in the likes of “Fatal Contact”, “Flash Point“, and “Ip Man”, before a much more prominent appearance in 2011’s “Shaolin”, and more recently “The Wrath of Vajra”, his first outing as leading man! With Justin Lin’s clout in the action film world, “Shaolin 3D” could be an epic martial arts masterpiece with any of these rising stars handling the action in front of the camera (or even better, with Yuen Woo-ping behind it!)