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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this subtitled martial arts epic from Hong Kong and China is a particularly violent example of the genre. Not only are there (beautifully choreographed) martial arts fights, but there's also frequent shooting, stabbing, slicing, explosions -- and lots of blood. There's a serious, tragic tone to the violence, and children and animals are involved in some of it -- a little girl dies after a battle, soldiers fire warning shots at boys, and horses are injured. There are no other real issues except for the occasional iffy word in the subtitles, like "damn," "hell," and "bastard." Teen fans of martial arts movies will want to see this, especially given the presence of stars Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, and Jackie Chan, but the level of violence shouldn't be underestimated.
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What's the story?
In the early days of the Chinese Republic, a warlord, General Hou (Andy Lau), and his sworn brother, Cao Man (Nicholas Tse), ravage the land, conquering, stealing, and slaughtering as they go. Lusting for more power, Cao arranges to betray his old friend through a staged assassination -- in the violence, Hou's daughter is killed. Hou finds himself lost, wanted by his former men, and gravely injured. A cook (Jackie Chan) at the nearby Shaolin temple rescues him and nurses him back to health, and Hou soon finds that the monks' belief in Martial Zen helps him let go of his hatred. Unfortunately, Cao still has some evil plans up his sleeve.
Is it any good?
The movie's well executed, and it has many dazzling moments, but that's not enough to vault it to the top of the heap. Big, historical martial arts epics have been making money in China, so there are a lot of them; SHAOLIN is one of several to make the leap to the United States. Director Benny Chan, who's best known for some of Jackie Chan's more recent films, simply doesn't have the grace or style of someone like Yuen Woo Ping (True Legend) or John Woo (Red Cliff).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does it compare to other martial arts movies? What about to horror movies? How are certain scenes different from others?
Why would the Shaolin monks practice fighting and martial arts when they're dedicated to compassion? Can violence lead to peace?
The cook learns to believe in himself by using skills he already had in new ways. What skills do you have that could be used in more active or more positive ways?
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