Eye For Film >> Movies >> Chinese Odyssey (2002) Film Review
From Uma Thurman kicking ass in Kill Bill to the undeniable beauty of Hero, martial arts is definitely in vogue right now. However, if you cut your kung-fu teeth on Crouching Tiger and are expecting all films of this ilk to feature a willowy blonde in a yellow jumpsuit, or looking for the finished product to be CGI-ed to within an inch of what constitutes reality, think again. Cue bizarre humour and a genre that mixes slapstick, martial arts, physical comedy and bad jokes.
Chinese Odyssey's intentions are good enough. Unsurprisingly the setting is jaw dropping, the fight scenes enjoyable and the characters likeable enough. However the lack of originality and an ineffective narrative trajectory detracts heavily from its merits to leave an empty husk where a good cross genre film should have been.
Set in the Ming dynasty, Chinese Odyssey uses the age-old tale of fated lovers and crossed wires, but instead of putting a new spin on it, director Jeffrey Lau simply rehashes all the old "spins" until the viewer is left a little dizzy and a lot bored.
Two pairs of siblings are destined for each other - one pair royalty, the other pair paupers - and after much cross dressing, impromptu fighting, confusion over who is what and other such dramatic tools, straight out of Shakespeare's text book, the guys get their girls. Or girls get their girls Or guys get their guys... whatever.
Basically, if you mix The Prince And The Pauper, Disney's Aladdin and a bit of Orsino/Viola 12th Night action, throw in some martial arts and a string of weak jokes, you have Chinese Odyssey in a nutshell.
Perhaps, the humour was lost on me and admirers of this style enjoy short scenes, nonsensical dialogue and slapstick. However, once the internal monologues started and close-ups of exaggerated facial expressions kicked in, I checked out. Not even the beautiful cinematography, or impressive kicking, jumping and hitting could salvage this one.
If you know a lot about Hong Kong comedy style, are a Shaw Brothers fan or simply looking for a way to waste two hours of your life that you will never get back, then this is for you. Otherwise, why not rent a comedy and a martial arts actioner and watch them separately? It will feel a lot more rewarding.Reviewed on: 21 Mar 2005