The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang 神探蒲松齡之蘭若仙蹤 (2019) Review

The idea of having Jackie Chan starred in an effects-heavy historical fantasy-comedy genre doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence. Besides, whenever he opted for less practical and grounded action movies and relies heavily on elaborate special effects, we got stinkers like The Medallion (2003) and Bleeding Steel <機器之血> (2017).

Which is why I went in with little hope when I watched The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang <神探蒲松齡之蘭若仙蹤>, expecting the worst possible outcome. But I was surprised to see Jackie Chan’s latest movie isn’t as bad as I thought. It wasn’t a great one, just sufficient enough as a family-friendly Chinese New Year blockbuster with some action and comedy. And that is not all, The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang <神探蒲松齡之蘭若仙蹤> even offers a surprising amount of tragic-romance angle between Ethan Juan’s Yan Chixia and Elane Zhong’s Nie Xiaoqian. Talking about “killing two birds with one stone”.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the movie: Jackie Chan plays Pu Songling, a demon hunter who teams up with local police official Yan Fei (Austin Lin) to investigate a case involving the mysterious disappearances of teenage village girls. They soon discover it has something to do with the wicked mirror demon (Lin Peng) and snake demon Nie Xiaoqian (Elane Zhong). Complicating the matters is Yan Chixia (Ethan Juan), a mysterious demon warrior who’s been trying to pursue Xiaoqian for a significant reason.

Despite being heavily promoted as “a Jackie Chan film”, which can be evidently seen in the trailers, The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang <神探蒲松齡之蘭若仙蹤>  is actually directed by Yan Jia or better known as Vash, whose previous known credit was the little-seen B-grade monster movie called Bugs <食人蟲> (2014).

Although this is the first time he made a big-budget feature, Yan Jia proved to be quite a competent visual stylist. The special effects may have been spotty in places but the overall result is decent enough for a China production. Even some of the CG-heavy action sequences are visually impressive such as the brief but engaging moment when Yan Chixia first encounter Xiaoqian, as well as another one involving Pu Songling battling against the mirror demon with both half of his body trapped in separate mirrors.

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The cast is adequate enough, with Jackie Chan’s everyman charm is put to good use while Austin Lin provides decent support as Pu Songling’s aspiring apprentice. And speaking of Jackie Chan, it’s kind of odd that his supposedly leading role is actually more of a supporting role since the movie happens to pay more attention to both Yan Chixia and Xiaoqian’s love story. While Ethan Juan delivers an engaging performance to his role as Yan Chixia, I didn’t expect it was Elane Zhong who impresses me the most with her sympathetic portrayal as the snake demon Nie Xiaoqian. She possesses enough magnetic screen presence to her role, thanks to her ethereal beauty while looking ravishing in a flowing red dress. Although both Ethan Juan and Elane Zhong are no match to Leslie Cheung and Joey Wong in the HK martial arts-romance classic in A Chinese Ghost Story <倩女幽魂> (1987), their onscreen chemistry remains ample enough in this movie.

Fans of Jackie Chan’s movies might feel frustrated with the martial arts veteran’s lack of trademark fights and stunts in The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang <神探蒲松齡之蘭若仙蹤>. And yet, it was a refreshing change of pace for the star and although the story’s attempt to blend action, comedy and romance does tend to feel uneven at times, this movie remains an unlikely decent surprise worth watching in the cinema with your family or even your loved one.

THREE-stars

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