32nd generation Chinese Shaolin Fighting Monk Li Bao Xin must immigrate to New York City to look after young Janie, his six-year-old niece. Struggling to make a new life, Li Bao will face challenges that test his character more than his physical strength. Through it all, his mind remains filled with the heroic stories of the Shaolin Temple, a great tradition that defines him, but also makes his assimilation to western culture more difficult. While in China he was a venerated master, in America he is nobody. To make a life for him and Janie, Li Bao must contend with a modern society, where his great fighting skills and heroic lineage have little meaning. He will have to decide which is more important, his dreams or his family.
Nothing would please me more than writing a positive review full of superlatives; it’s been a long time since a film really left me speechless. Unfortunately the Man From Shaolin isn’t a film I would care to watch again. There is a certain feeling of purity and almost childish naiveté with which the main character dares the cold reality of modern western civilization. But most of the purity is wasted in overly long shots and instead of leaving a sense of wonder in you, they leave an urgent need to fast-forward through the next few scenes.
Low-budget films have a great potential because they need to rely on story, characters, and all of the good stuff that is almost nonexistent in AAA films. But they need to be in control of it, both the director and the actors. The Man From Shaolin tries to be poetic and instill a sense of melancholy in the viewer, but it presses too hard. Its white-background scenes in which the film tells parts of the Shaolin myth don’t really come out as a sort of dreamy sequences. Instead, they show the low-budget and lack of anything that would replace missing effects. Don’t get me wrong – the story was touching, and some of the acting wasn’t entirely so bad. But it deserved more effort, and more love for the material.
With that said, do beware it’s not that “killing and smashing” kind of martial arts movie. It’s more of a drama, and a very touching on, and I can’t say I’m that type of a person who like this kind of movies, but regardless of my beliefs, I enjoyed this one. This is not your usual “kung-fu” movie and it is refreshing. Didn’t know anything about the movie before watching it, but I’ll sure be following this Man from Shaolin’s work from now on! If you’re looking for a Jackie Chan kinda film, pass this one out.