Thursday, December 04, 2003

REVIEW: Peacock King

Seen 3 December 2003 at Allston Cinema #2 (Weekly Wednesday Ass-Kickings)
* ¾ (out of four)

On the surface, this looks like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of a movie - kung fu action and stop-motion monsters being the two great tastes that taste great together. Unfortunately, there's not close to enough of either one, leaving this short movie (in the 85-minute range) feeling not so much padded or boring as just lightweight and under acheiving.

The plot is thoroughly silly - some two thousand years ago, there was a battle between good and evil which resulted in the Hell King being imprisoned, but now his servant Kaga, the Hell Witch, and daughter Ashura, the Hell Virgin, are somehow going to bring him back by opening four Holes. Destined to oppose them are two martial artist monks, the Chinese mercenary Peacock and the Japanese esthete Lucky Fruit, who pick up a pretty sidekick along the way.

Goofy, but so are other examples of this genre; you tolerate the goofy because it gets you to the action sequences. But there's only one good martial-arts sequence, and the monsters are pretty disappointing. Indeed, it cruelly teases the audience with dinosaurs, but the promise is never fulfilled. The final sequence is in some ways torturous - it offers up a giant who always seems to be moving but never seems to get much closer to the heroes, and relies too much on battle auras and power emanating from hands, and not enough of people punching and kicking each other.

I believe this movie was based upon a manga, and I can't help but think animation might have been the way to go here. That, or a Hollywood-sized special effects budget.

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