Chinese movie-makers keep faith with martial arts

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The Chinese film industry is hoping a little more martial arts magic will woo international audiences over the next 12 months with two productions set to take familiar stories one step further.

First up comes the US$12 million (eight million euro) budgeted The Storm Warriors, directed by Hong Kong-based twins Oxide and Danny Pang, and set to make its film industry premiere at next month's American Film Market (http://www.ifta-online.org/) as they try to sell it to the world.

The film is taken from the wildly successful Hong Kong comic series Fung Wan ( Wind and Cloud), by Ma Wing-shing, which also inspired the Andrew Lau-directed The Stormriders (1998).

That film starred Asian idols Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng, and raked in HK$42 million (3.6 million euros) from the local box office that year. It still ranks as Hong Kong cinema's 12th all-time top earner.

The Pangs -- who built an international reputation thanks to the success of horror film such as The Eye (2002) -- say they have tried to reinvent the martial arts genre with their production, reuniting Kwok and Cheng and mixing live action and cutting-edge computer generated imagery.

They also claim the story should stand on its own and not be thought of as a sequel, even thought it features the same characters.

The same line is being taken by the people behind the US$29 million (19 million euro) budgeted Shaolin Temple - which shares the same name as the 1982 film that launched the career of martial arts star Jet Li, and is obviously set around the same legendary martial arts school.

The film is set to star box office draws Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Nicolas Tse -- alongside more than 1,000 monks from the temple.

The film starring Li took in 100 million yuan (9.7 million euros) in China and saw the Shaolin monks start to take their martial arts skills on international tours, a trend which continues today.

But director Benny Chan -- who made the award-winning New Police Story (2004) with Chan -- told Chinese media that while his production shares a number of things in common with Li's film, he plans to move the story of the monastery forward from the seventh century to the early 20th century.

Shaolin Temple will have its fight scenes choreographed by Hong Kong's Corey Yuen ( Red Cliff, X-Men) and is set for an end-of-2010 release.

Website: http://www.thestormwarriors.com

MS

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