aka American Shaolin
(Hua Qi Shao Lin)
Director/Screenplay – Jeffrey Lau, Producer – Linda Kuk, Photography – Peter Pau. Production Company – Golden Princess Productions Ltd
Chow Yun Fat (Chang Ching), Wu Chien-lien (Mei), Chia Hui Liu (Abbot Hung-Chi), Han Chin (Tong Ling/Captain Chiu), Michael Wong (Grasshopper), Phillip Kwok (Kung Ching), Roy Chiao (Uncle Bill)
CIA agent Chang Ching is sent into China on a mission. He is sheltered at a rural Shaolin temple. There he meets a mystery girl, Mei, who is kept locked in a cell and discovers that she can create magic. The two fall in love as Chang attempts to smuggle her out.
This is a typically light and fluffy Hong Kong fantasy comedy featuring Hong Kong action star, the improbably named Chow Yun Fat. This type of comedy (mo lei tau) is a regular style for director Jeffrey Lau. (See below for Lau’s other films).
The film moves at a busy pace and has a cheerful silliness that keeps its head up above any of the rough spots. One such rough spot is the lack of any real plot – we, for instance, never work out why Chow Yun Fat’s CIA agent is sent to China in the first place. The middle of the film is constructed for the sole purpose of keeping Chow Yun Fat at the monastery and even that wanders off and gets sidetracked into a series of gags about teaching the monks about American junk culture.
Nevertheless, the complete lack of plot is occasionally compensated for by the mindless good nature of it all. There are some inspired sequences – a fight that takes place halfway up between the walls of a narrow alley; the scene where Wu Chien-lien demonstrates her powers and ends up with a young monk covered in flowers; the scenes teaching the monks about baseball or serving them up American junkfood. The romantic scenes have a banal sweetness to them even if there is not that much to the film by the end.
Jeffrey Lau’s other genre films include:- the true-life serial killer film The Hong Kong Butcher (1985); the horror comedy Thunder Cops (1987); The Haunted Cop Shop (1987) and The Haunted Cop Shop II (1988) and the unrelated Mortuary Blues (1990), all featuring cops versus various monsters; All For the Winner (1990) and All For the Winner 2/The Top Bet (1991), gambling comedies about people with clairvoyant abilities; the martial arts film The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993); the two-part adaptation of Journey to the West, A Chinese Odyssey Part 1: Pandora’s Box (1994) and A Chinese Odyssey Part 2: Cinderella (1995); the ghost comedy Out of the Dark (1995); the historical fantasy Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002); Second Time Around (2002), another gambling fantasy; the martial arts fantasy A Chinese Tall Story (2005); the comedy Metallic Attraction: Kung Fu Cyborg (2009); the romantic comedy The Fantastic Water Babes (2010); the time travel/Wu Xia film Just Another Pandora’s Box (2010); East Meets West (2011), a comedy wherein Eastern deities become superheroes; A Chinese Odyssey Part 3 (2016); and Kung Fu League (2018) in which legendary martial arts heroes are summoned to aid a nerd.