Pssst, want to check out Chai gong in our new look?
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I don't think most Western audiences have the cultural background to understand all of the humor or the philosophy that drives The Mad Monk, so this may be one for Johnnie To or Stephen Chow completists (I am at least one of these). From the start, you know you're not in Kansas anymore, spending time with the Chinese gods who send their resident troublemaker down to Earth to prove his worth by changing the fates of a beggar, a prostitute, and a villain who keep reincarnating in those roles (happily, Anthony Wong and Maggie Cheung play the first two). Though Chow isn't credited in any role but that of actor, this is very much his style - broad physical comedy, anachronistic references, and Cantonese wordplay that is lost on non-speakers. The stuff with the god reincarnated as an adult baby is particularly difficult to get through. For his part, To shows his interest in fortune by letting most of the comic elements go by the third act in favor of bold supernatural action, where the stakes are the transmigration of the soul and the so-called Monk goes from glib trickster to sincere hero. I've seen more impenetrable comedies and mystical action films than this, so I guess I appreciate it for how bizarre it can be.
to see which of your friends have seen this movie!