Movie review Not enough Jackie Chan in fantasy comedy The Knight of Shadows

Jackie Chan is demon hunter Pu Songling in The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang.
Jackie Chan is demon hunter Pu Songling in The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / FANTASY ACTION-COMEDY

THE KNIGHT OF SHADOWS: BETWEEN YIN AND YANG (PG)

109 minutes/Now showing/3 stars

The story: The boundary between the world of humans and monsters has collapsed and hordes of demons are pouring into the human realm. A legendary demon hunter (Jackie Chan) defends humanity from an inhuman invasion, aided by a motley group of friendly monsters. He teams up with police detective Fei (Austin Lin) to solve the case involving teenage village girls who have gone missing. Benson Ang

Tales from the short story collection Strange Stories From A Chinese Studio have been adapted into so many films and plays over the decades that yet another movie adaptation would have to be that much different.

And while this latest movie's brilliant computer-generated imagery and Jackie Chan's everyman charm work in its favour, there is still somehow a feeling that moviegoers have seen some of these characters before.

Chan plays Pu Songling, a demon hunter with a glowing magical calligraphy brush, whose powers are as formidable as they are visually impressive, like being able to summon tentacle-like chains to entrap monsters.

Already known for his martial arts prowess, Chan also shines in physical comedy and imbues his character with a playful sense of humour.

For instance, he uses the brush to draw cat whiskers on a police detective in one scene and falls to the ground after being cut loose from his binds in another.

This is a Jackie Chan everyone knows and loves. Accompanied by a crew of mostly pint-sized friendly demons, he goes on a rollicking adventure through fantasy and legend, filled with stunning backdrops such as a vast torrential sea.

Unfortunately, the movie goes off the rails at the introduction of a secondary plot, which is loosely adapted from the short story of Xiaoqian, a female ghost who falls in love with a human scholar.

In this movie, Xiaoqian is a beautiful demoness played by Chinese actress Elaine Zhong, who is romantically linked to another demon hunter played by Taiwanese actor Ethan Juan. But despite the pair's idol good looks and on-screen chemistry, their tangled love story seems rehashed from many other films, such as the 1987 and 2011 versions of A Chinese Ghost Story, as well as the 1997 animated version.

The result? A tacky melodrama which serves more as a distraction than a major plot line.

It would have been much better if the film had just stuck with the entertaining Chan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2019, with the headline 'Not enough Jackie Chan in this fantasy comedy'. Print Edition | Subscribe