Mojin – The Lost Legend (Well Go USA, NR)

Mojin 75If you want to see a dumb action movie but not feel too guilty about it afterwards, Mojin – The Lost Legend isn’t a terrible choice.

 

 

 

 

Mojin 500

It’s been much written about that China in the past five or so years has been growing exponentially as a market for U.S. movies, and you can see this reflected not only in Chinese box office numbers but in Hollywood studios recently reaching out to them in the form of Chinese locations (Transformers: Age of Extinction), actors (Blackhat), or, in some cases, the loaning of Hollywood talent (see Christian Bale in the Zhang Yimou film The Flowers of War). Much to my happiness, this trend is starting to go both directions, and the new big-budget (relatively; it’s an estimated $37 million) Chinese blockbuster Mojin – The Lost Legend is opening in the U.S. the same day as it opens in China, it was partially shot in New York City, and, in general, seems to be catering to U.S. audiences much like how some American films have recently catered to Chinese audiences.

As a fan of Chinese films (or just world cinema in general), I welcome this with open arms. So much the better that Mojin stars one of my favorite Chinese-language actors, Shu Qi, who most recently was seen as the lead of my much-beloved The Assassin (also released by Well Go USA this year). Lower-brow American audiences might recognize her as the girl from The Transporter, and it’s probably unsurprising for me to say that that’s the only movie I’ve ever seen her in that I didn’t like.

Alas, Mojin bears more similarities to The Transporter than it does to The Assassin. Now, don’t get me wrong—I’d watch Mojin a bunch of times in a row before I’d watch The Transporter even one more time, but still, Mojin is more in the strain of the dumb, loud American blockbuster than the international art films I generally adore.

More specifically, it plays something like an Indiana Jones film. The plot concerns a trio, brothers Wang Kai Xuan (Huang Bo) and Hu Bayi (Chen Kun of Let the Bullets Fly) and Hu’s love interest Shirley Yang (Qi), who are on an adventure to track down the Equinox Flower from a very Lost Ark-type tomb. This allows for lots of CGI, nonsense action, and an awfully disjointed plot.

One thing you should know about me is that I’m a lot more patient for generically-plotted foreign films than I am for generically-plotted American films. There’s no particularly strong justification for this, beyond the simple fascination with foreign cultures, but, say, show me a bad American romantic comedy and I’ll hate it, show me a bad French romantic comedy and I’ll like it. With that in mind, I enjoyed Mojin well enough, but you understand that that isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

Still, it isn’t just the presence of Ms. Qi that won me over. The soundtrack is generally pretty strong, including some cuts from the Chinese band Hanggai, including one I’d come to like before ever seeing this film, “Xiger Xiger.” And it’s interesting to compare the things this film does and doesn’t do as compared to its American counterparts—for example, Mojin follows the strange recent trend where a film will change its aspect ratio mid-movie, like Kill Bill: Volume 2 and The Grand Budapest Hotel, which might have something to do with the film having an American cinematographer, Jake Pollock.

So if you want to see a dumb action movie but not feel too guilty about it afterwards, Mojin – The Lost Legend isn’t a terrible choice. If you’re looking more along the lines of the artier fare we more commonly get imported from China, well, look elsewhere. | Pete Timmermann

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