Lionsgate // 2009 // 111 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 25th, 2011
Frantic fantasy kung fu video game explosion!!!
Looking for a grounded, gritty martial arts throwdown? Shaolin Soccer is a more conventional action film.
Two best friends, driven apart by a desperate attempt to defeat their arch-nemesis, turn to their hand-to-hand combat skills and magic energy from their fingers to bring balance to the world.
You've got Wind and Cloud, a pair of renowned fighters who have mastered the incorporation of elemental magic into their already impressive mastery of chopsocky. But it's not enough when Lord Godless and his Japanese horde roll into town.
Storm Warriors doesn't make a lot of sense and it's absolutely insane, but if you like hyper-stylized action, visual effects out the wazoo, and a whole lot of loud noise echoing in your skull, there might be some value here.
The story is based on a comic book series called Fung Wan, which makes sense because the mythology is dense and I felt lost for most of the time. Thankfully, the guts of the film are easy to follow: Wind and Cloud are pals, they need to find a way to defeat a villain, one of them messes around with evil mojo and eventually they'll have to fight each other. Also, the Japanese suck. Regardless of the source material -- and I certainly felt I was missing a lot of fill-in-the-blank material -- this central crux of the story is easy to follow.
Not that it really matters though. Even if you might be as confused as me, there's always the action to glom onto and the Pang brothers serve up a boatload of craziness in their film.
My kung-fu sensibilities are firmly entrenched in the "realistic, grounded" arena, where skilled martial artists and stunt men execute complicated athletic routines and fight choreography. I have little use for wire-fu or camera trickery. But I can get behind the Storm Warriors approach because if you're going to go into physics-defying, fantasy fighting, you might as well go whole hog. Really, this is more video game than kung fu period piece as our heroes and villains shoot off fireballs, generate force fields, leap multiple stories, and then shoot off some more fireballs and summon tidal waves and wind storms out of the air. There's a lot to soak in, though it can grow tedious on the eyeballs after a while. At least it did for me. There's only so much off-the-chain special effects orgy I can take.
The DVD: an effective 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that keeps up nicely with the busy-ness, a pair of 5.1 tracks (English and Cantonese), a making-of featurette and a look at the special effects.
The hyperactive style is entertaining for a little while, but it eventually gave me a headache.
Pass the Advil.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13