The story: In a time of demons and exorcists in Hangzhou, Butong (Zheng Kai) is a monk with supernatural powers - and a head of hair so tough that he cannot receive a tonsure. He crosses paths with Jade (Kitty Zhang), an exorcist who retains memories of her past life as a fairy banished from heaven after breaking a rule by falling in love with another fairy, Golden Child (Zheng). However, she is unable to see that Butong is Golden Child's current incarnation.
After a surprisingly worthy outing with the crime epic Chasing The Dragon (2017), Hong Kong film-maker Wong Jing is back to his sloppy ways.
He co-directs with Billy Chung (The Man From Macau, 2014) The Golden Monk, a nonsensical fantasy that is only briefly, intermittently amusing, and inexplicably turns out to be the origin story of another well-known character of whom numerous television series and movies have been made.
If more jokes hit their mark, one would not have time to wonder why heaven here is a vaguely Greek-looking construct. Neither do the nonsensical moments tickle the funny bone. Instead, Butong jarringly breaks into a rendition of Andy Lau's Water Of Forgetfulness, and Taiwanese actress Evonne Hsieh, who made her debut in the contemporary drama Tiny Times (2013), cringingly parades about as a mustachioed male buffoon.
The central love story is not persuasive and the mix of comedy and romance is strained.
The film is also saddled with an unsavoury and unfunny episode of a man who pimps out his wife, as well as a lame side plot of a dragon spirit attempting to seize control of the court by poisoning the emperor. The running time is further stretched with the inclusion of unnecessarily long recap scenes.
It culminates in a clash of the computer-animated titans as an army of golden monks battles with a villainous dragon. But the CGI stakes are not enough for one to feel invested in this showdown.
REVIEW / FANTASY
THE GOLDEN MONK (PG13)
91 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2 Stars
Perhaps The Golden Monk might have greater appeal in China, where Zheng is best known as a cast member in the Chinese version of the South Korean variety show Running Man.
He proves himself to be a game and affable actor but, next time, he should run away from such slipshod material.