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Forbidden Kingdom, The


Stars: Michael Angarano, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Liu Yifei, Collin Chou, Li Bing Bing, Morgan Benoit

Director: Rob Minkoff

Martial arts legends Chan and Li appear together for the first time in this fantasy action film and, yes, they do fight a duel. And, yes, it's a draw. What else could it be?

The plot mixes an old TV series, Monkey (based on Chinese legend), with elements of Crouching Tiger and The Wizard of Oz. Nine-stone weakling Jason Tripitaka (Angarano), a fan of kung-fu magazines, is the butt of the local bullies and spends much of his time in a pawn and antiquary shop run by Old Hop (Chan).

Beaten by the bullies, Jason falls from a height and finds himself in ancient China, still clutching a golden staff he's found in the pawnshop. Befriended by a beggar (Chan again), who proves to be a 'drunken master', Jason embarks on a quest to gain the beggar immortality and free the legendary Monkey King (Li), now encased in stone by a cruel warlord (Chou).

They're joined by a vengeful girl (Yifei), whose parents were killed by the warlord, and by an enigmatic monk (Li again). 'If you die here,' Chan warns Jason, 'you'll be found dead in the world you left behind.'

Chan's horse must have buckled under the weight of the endless 'beggar's outfits' he seems to carry with him, but he's ultimately felled by an arrow from the White Demoness (Bing Bing) and taken to a monastery, where they promise to send the Walking Monk for help. 'Couldn't you send the Running Monk?' asks the grievously wounded Chan.

When all ends (fairly) happily, Jason has to return to the 21st century. 'You have come far,' he's told, 'through the Gate of No Gate.' Replies Jason" 'I just want to go home.' Ah well, Chan's beggar does look like a scarecrow.

There's lots of whirling action in a film that never seems to run out of bad guys to kill, and beautiful photography (on location in China) by the delightfully named Horace Wing Hang Wong. Kung fu addicts will find this great fung (sorry, fun).

David Quinlan

USA/China/South Korea 2008. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour by FotoKem.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 05 Jul 2008