“Anna in Kung Fu Land” is the second 2003 film from Hong Kong that sports an asinine love story wrapped around a martial arts tournament. The other was “Star Runner”, which looks like a brilliant masterpiece of filmmaking in comparison to this loser by Raymond Yip, who last gave us the unfathomably idiotic “My Dream Girl”. That other movie also starred Hong Kong wunderkind Ekin Cheng, who is the perfect argument against human cloning. Can you imagine having more than one Ekin Cheng running around? Instead of headlining just 20 below par and inconsequential movies a year, they’ll be 100s, each one starring a Cheng clone!
All kidding aside, “Anna in Kung Fu Land” is as bad as Hong Kong cinema can get. In the service of comedy, the audience is treated to one of those “wacky” case of mistaken identity, which invariably gives birth to a series of “wacky” situations, all accompanied by “wacky” music to boot. Once again, Yip is incapable of appreciating the fine art of subtlety; hell, I don’t think the guy even knows what it means, or can fully absorb the simple notion of subtlety. Doused with crushing Appropriate Music, “Anna” is, basically, without merit. That is, unless you’re in the mood for a movie of such abortive personality that it makes formulaic American Romantic Comedies look like great innovations.
The lead here is, of course, Ekin Cheng (“A Man Called Hero”), whose character is either named Kin or Ekin or Jiang, depending on what version of the movie you saw. Cheng plays a PR executive who comes up with a kung fu tournament in order to promote his client’s products. Shiu Hung Hui (“Running out of Time”) is Cheng’s hapless boss, whose method of getting clients and keeping them is to grovel — a lot. I.e. it’s the same role that Hui plays in just about every movie, unfortunately. Cheng is also dating Hui’s daughter, a young woman obsessed with her job as a cop, and who treats a gun like it’s a toy. Really, seeing the character run around jabbing her gun in people’s faces, all in offering to the Comedy Gods, is rather disturbing.
Miriam Yeung (“Love Undercover 2″) is the titular Anna, the spunky daughter of an ex-Shaolin kung fu master who was kicked out of Shaolin when, after winning a martial arts tournament, he ran off with a Japanese girl and got hitched. Now Anna is back in competition to salvage her dad’s name by fighting the Shaolin temple that kicked him out. But of course all that gets sidetracked when Anna, after yet another case of Odious Comic Relief, falls heads over heels in love with the dashing Ekin Cheng.
It’s all very “wacky”, of course, and if you were one of those dense audience members who didn’t “get” that what was transpiring onscreen is supposed to be “wacky”, then have no fear. Director Raymond Yip will gladly let you know every time that what’s happening onscreen is supposed to be “wacky”. Are you all “wacky” out yet? I am. Most of “Anna” is spent with Cheng trying to hold onto both women while lying to them about who is with whom and why and what and who really cares. It’s all nonsensical and childish and silly and abhorrently familiar.
The movie’s martial arts seems to be choreographed with the motto, “the wackier the better”. (Again with the wackiness!) The fights are all thrown through the CGI machine, coming out looking less believable than when the Six Million Dollar Man was supposed to be running fast, and to show it the TV guys shot him in slow motion and inserted that “tek tek tek tek tek” machine sound in the background. All the characters that take part in the tournament are sold with gimmicks — there’s the guy in the Mexican wrestler mask; 3 kid monks; a woman in a red get-up; a pair of twins; and an arrogant (is there any other kind?) American fighter.
As for comedy, “Anna” works much better than the as-low-as-you-can-go “My Dream Girl”. The horrid music soundtrack aside, the film has a number of funny moments. One takes place toward the end, when Anna is in the Inevitable Big Fight against the Arrogant American. By this point all the truth has come out and Cheng has to “battle” for the affections of Anna. In an attempt to win her back, Cheng becomes extremely supportive of Anna during her match with the Arrogant American, but only succeeds in distracting her! In another funny scene, the Arrogant American does a TV commercial with disastrous results.
There isn’t much else that can be said about “Anna”. It is innocuous stupidity in the guise of a Romantic Comedy. The action is not worth a look because it’s so flippantly executed. If you’re in the mood for asinine romance coupled with decent action, see “Star Runner” instead.
Raymond Yip (director)
CAST: Ekin Cheng …. Kin
Miriam Yeung …. Anna