Just Look Away

Posted on January 14, 2011

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Shaolin vs. Evil Dead 2: Ultimate Power

This 2006 action/comedy/horror movie was not reviewed by Rotten Tomatoes, but 31% of respondents there want to see it. I am so, so sorry.

Why bother?

Well, it stars Gordon “Master Killer” Liu (Chia Hui Liu). It’s certainly attractive if you liked movies like Mr. Vampire and Magic Cop. Also, there’s a sneaky bit of marketing if you watched the first Shaolin vs. Evil Dead. At the end of that DVD, they offer scenes from the sequel. Those look awesome, and might convince you to look for this.

I watched it.

Dispatched from their temple, three Taoist monks save a village from bandits. There is wire work, pyrotechnics, and flashing swords. One of the monks survives, and rides away with some woman who, it turns out, is pregnant with his child. The monk was poisoned during the battle. Back at the temple, the monk beseeches his master to save the woman and the child. The woman dies in childbirth because that suits the plot. Then an adolescent monk rushes in with a “pill” that will protect the monk from the poison, until it suits the plot to kill him off. Which it does, after the adolescent monk and the immaculate infant grow to young adults. That way the leadership of the clan can pass to one of them, setting up some sibling rivalry for leadership of the martial arts world. Then there’s a quest for the Sky Sword, some Taoist sorcery, and hopping vampires.

The Verdict

Before I start ranting, let me explain that I love Hong Kong action movies. I watch them regularly, and own many of my favorites. I can speak knowledgeably about the careers of Yun-Fat Chow, Donny Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Woo-Ping, Tsui Hark, John Woo, and, yes, Bruce Lee. I understand many of the cultural conventions, genre tropes, and bits of history and mythology. I’m a geek, a nerd, a fan-boy, an otaku. I’m blessed with friends who share my peculiar enthusiasm, and trade movies with me.

That said, my response to Shaolin vs. Evil Dead 2 was, “What the Hell?” That movie is neither a prequel nor a sequel – which is too bad, because the first movie cried out for a sequel that would resolve issues left at the end. Gordon Liu is terrific, as usual, but he’s barely in the movie. Most of the 96-minute running time, we kept wondering when the vampires, zombies, and Gordon Liu would show up.

Whew. Okay, moving on. Taken as its own film, Shaolin vs. Evil Dead 2 isn’t a complete failure. It’s a shame that the most interesting villains died at the beginning of the movie. It’s a shame that Mu Che (No Evil) is clearly and obviously born bad. It would be a much more interesting film if there was some real struggle between fate and free will, but there’s not. The final confrontation is inevitable from the opening credits, and the journey is much less interesting because of that.

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Posted in: Marketing, Movies