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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Shaolin Temple (1979)



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Shaolin Temple is Jet Li's first movie, and it's easy to see why he became a star after it. By conventional terms, it's not such a great movie, although I liked what it has to say about the impracticability of pacifism. But the martial arts in this are absolutely astounding. Very little wire work is used in the film, and, with incidental exceptions, not much in the way of editing tricks are used to suggest greater physical feats than what the actors are actually performing. What they perform is some of the most dazzling athletics that I've ever seen in a martial arts movie. The fight scenes are spectacular, but even more so are the training and practice scenes, where martial arts demonstrations range from drunken boxing to things that look suspiciously like breakdancing.

The film is unlikely to win a cross-over audience. The plot is serviceable but no more, and probably more than half of the running time consists of fight scenes or practice scenes. But if this kind of movie is your thing, you should take note of this little gem.

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