“Monk Comes Down the Mountain” is an epic, martial arts fantasy adventure comedy, from acclaimed director and writer, Chen Kaige. Stars Wang Baoqiang, Aaron Kwok, Yuen Wah and Chang Chen, and it’s available to watch NOW on Netflix!
Wang Baoqiang stars as the simple but good-natured Taoist monk “He Anxia”. Wang started learning kung fu at the age of six after watching Jet Li’s movie “The Shaolin Temple”, becoming a disciple of Shaolin at eight years-old. He is best known for his roles in Donnie Yen’s “Iceman” films, “Kung Fu Killer” and the “Detective Chinatown” sequels.
Pop star and actor Aaron Kwok stars as “Zhou Xiyu”, a Taoist priest skilled in martial arts.
Kwok’s long, and successful singing career has seen him considered as one of the “Four Heavenly Kings” of Hong Kong, that also includes Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau and Leon Lai. He has appeared in the movies “2000A.D.”, “Saviour of the Soul”, “Future Cops”, “Throwdown”, “The Bare Footed Kid”, “The Storm Riders”, “China Strike Force”, “Divergence”, and as Sun Wukong in “The Monkey King” trilogy of films.
The popular Taiwanese actor and singer Chang Chen stars as “Boss Zha”, a Peking Opera star. Chen will be familiar to martial arts movie fans as Luo Xiahao/Dark Cloud, the bandit in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and for his roles in the epic “Red Cliff” movies, “Brotherhood of Blades 1 & 2”, “The Grandmaster”, “The Assassin” and the Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster “Dune”.
Action legend Yuen Wah stars as the duplicitous martial arts master “Peng Qianwu”. Yuen Wah famously doubled for Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon” and had significant roles as villains in “Eastern Condors”, “The Iceman Cometh” and “She Shoots Straight”. He became internationally known for his role as the “Landlord” in the box office smash “Kung Fu Hustle” and recently in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Golden Rings”.
There are guest appearances from several popular and acclaimed stars of Chinese cinema, including Lin Chi-ling (“Red Cliff”, “The Monkey King 3”), Fan Wei, Vanness Wu (“Dragon Squad”, “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon”, “Dragon Blade”, “Ip Man 4“) , Wang Xueqi (“Bodyguards and Assassins”, “Reign of Assassins“), Danny Chan Kwok-kwan (“Shaolin Soccer“, “Ip Man 3 & 4″, “Kung Fu League“), Lam Suet (“Election”, “Fatal Contact”, “Legendary Assassin”, “Invisible Target”, “Fatal Move”, “Shinjuku Incident”, “The Legend is Born – Ip Man”, “Drug War”), Tiger Hu Chen (“Matrix Reloaded”, “Man of Tai Chi”, “Triple Threat“, “John Wick 3: Parabellum“) and Jaycee Chan (“Invisible Target”, “Railroad Tigers“).
This film adaptation of Xu Haofeng’s popular wuxia (“martial hero”) novel blends action, adventure, comedy and fantasy.
Set in 1930’s China, He Anxia is a simple monk living in a secluded Taoist temple, who is asked to leave as the master believes experiencing the outside world will educate the simple monk about his trouble-making habits.
Anxia’s journey sees him encounter various martial arts masters, each one of whom teaches him different, and new physical and philosophical skills.
Anxia arrives in the city where he meets Tsui Daoning, a doctor of Chinese medicine. He Anxia comes to learn that Tsui has a much younger brother, Daorong who is secretly having an affair with Tsui Daoning’s wife.
A tragic turn of events leads to a vengeful response from Anxia, who visits a Buddhist temple in an attempt to atone for it. He meets an Abbott who tells him that if he wishes to be free from his burden he must meditate in the temple for seven days.
Anxia returns to the city and becomes involved with a skilled martial artist, Zhao Zinchuan, who is in dispute with his master, Peng Qianwu.
Events build to an epic confrontation that reveal an unexpected twist.
Plenty of Authentic Martial Arts
From the first frame, the style of action sets out a comedic, cartoonish style. That being said, much like “Shaolin Soccer” or “Kung Fu Hustle“, the choreography is still taken seriously, and there are plenty of authentic martial arts and stunts to enjoy among the jokes and slapstick.
Wang Biaoqiang Shows off his Drunken Style, Monkey Boxing & Tai Chi
Entering a beautifully recreated 1930’s Chinese city, our hero He Anxia drunkenly ducks and dives on the roof of a moving carriage, caricaturing Jackie Chan in both “Drunken Master” and “Police Story 2“. In fact, throughout Wang Biaoqiang demonstrates how diverse his skill-set is with bursts of drunken style, monkey boxing, tai chi, wire-fu and good old-fashioned high-kicking.
Much like the notion of Yin and Yang, the lighter moments are complimented by some pretty dark plot twists too. It helps increase the stakes for He Anxia giving a sense of genuine peril.
Legendary Stunt Performer, Yuen Wah still got the Skills!
Things turn particularly sinister with the introduction of Yuen Wah as a wicked martial arts master. The legendary stunt performer demonstrates he’s still got the skills in a rain-soaked duel, setting him up as the antagonist in the epic confrontations to come.
Superstar Aaron Kwok bags the Best Fight Scenes
Asian film superstar Aaron Kwok possibly gets the best of the fight scenes as a humble, but highly skilled martial arts master.
Wirework is always highly prevalent in the action choreography, and it frequently ventures into fantasy, usually enhanced with some reasonable quality CGI. Even so, the respective actors all perform their martial arts techniques with considerable grace, posture and skill.
There is a spectacular action sequence set during the war, featuring huge explosions and pyrotechnics. It looks as though it was filmed practically without CGI, and is all the more impressive as a result.
Chang Chen vs Thugs in a Great Street Fight
Much like the Matrix Reloaded’s Burly Brawl, Chang Chen features in a great street fight with dozens of Lam Suet’s sword-wielding thugs.
With the finale moving to the countryside, the concluding fight feels much more like a traditional wuxia movie. If you don’t enjoy seeing your martial arts heroes swirling up a whirlwind of leaves, or running feather-footed across treetops, this won’t be for you. Nevertheless there are still some entertaining moments and it’s good to see some familiar faces busting out the moves.
“Monk Comes Down the Mountain” is a strange- yet-entertaining Chinese movie. For the first 30 minutes or so, I thought I was going to be treated to a Stephen Chow-esque kung fu comedy. However it evolves into a fantasy martial arts action film that questions the morals, honour and loyalty of the various characters He Anxia meets on his journey to enlightenment on the nature of good and evil.
“Monk Comes Down the Mountain” is all beautifully filmed with a big budget feel, excellent music score, and good performances all round, particularly from Wang Biaoqiang and Yuen Wah.
This was heavily promoted at Chinese theatres for being released in IMAX 3D, and I imagine it would have looked very impressive. It is a tad long though, and I felt the pacing sagged heavily in the middle act.
At first, “Monk Comes Down the Mountain” looks to be a cartoonish fantasy film, but it’s actually a fairly philosophical treatise on human nature and karma. If you like Chinese-style fantasy action films with a little depth, there is plenty here to enjoy. It’s currently available to view on Netflix.
- “Meet good and bad people, but a hero stays true to himself.” – The Abbot
- Based on the popular martial arts novel by author and filmmaker Xu Haofeng (“The Sword Identity”, “Judge Archer”, “The Grandmaster”, “The Final Master“, “The Hidden Sword”).
- The music score was orchestrated by Klaus Badelt, a frequent collaborator with Hans Zimmer.
- Jaycee Chan, Jackie Chan‘s son, appears in this film. However, due to the scandal surrounding his marijuana usage he is not credited in any publicity.
- The action was choreographed by Ku Huen-Chiu, who has frequently stunt-doubled for Jet Li and worked on films such as “House of Fury”, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, “14 Blades“, “Into the Badlands“, “Shadow” and “Raging Fire”.
- Director Chen Kaige is best known for his Palme d’Or, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award-winning film “Farewell My Concubine”.