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snake and crane arts of shaolin 4

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Published on Apr 20, 2008

Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin works pretty well as a Hong Kong variation on the typical mystery film, albeit with a kung fu twist. Several Shaolin masters have been slaughtered in a robbery in the Hua Mountains. The stolen item turns out to be a kung fu manual purported to contain the secret of the elusive "Snake and Crane" martial arts technique. Not long after the murders, a young fighter named Hsu Yin-Fong (Jackie Chan) emerges on the scene, and flaunts the manual to everyone he comes in contact with during his seemingly aimless journeys. Of course, this sort of reckless behavior leads to numerous fights with onlookers who covet the secrets hidden within the stolen book. Luckily, Yin-Fong has no problem dispatching each and every combatant as they come forward, but to what end? It's not much of a spoiler to reveal that Chan's character isn't the culprit behind the attacks on the Shaolin monks, but is, of course, a sort of avenging angel. Instead of being a braggart, Yin-Fong is cleverly using a fake book to lure out the real killer, a man said to bear a mysterious scar. After encountering numerous hopefuls eager to bribe or battle him for the manual, Yin-Fong eventually dukes it out with Chien-Tse, the evil head honcho of the Black Dragon Clan who (You guessed it!) wants the real book to rule the martial world. Lots of kicking and punching ensues. With director Chen Chi-Hwa at the helm, Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin looks and feels a lot more polished than some of Chan's earlier films made under the direction of Lo Wei. Without Lo in the director's chair, Chan's character comes across as sufficiently likable, though he is still light years away from the happy-go-lucky screen persona that would one day be embraced by audiences around the world. Additionally, Nora Miao makes a welcome appearance in the film as Tang Pin-Er, a woman who at one point goes so far as to offer her body to Chan's character in order to gain the priceless kung fu manual (You'll just have to see the movie to find out his response!). There's also a trio of bell-wearing, spear-wielding ninja-like assassins (it's cooler than it sounds) that fight Chan near the end. The rest of the characters remain somewhat forgettable, though there are some fun performances along the way. Taken in total, Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin ranks as one of Jackie Chan's best films while under contract with Lo Wei's production company. But still, despite some nifty fight scenes (including one with Chan against two cute girls), it's not nearly as enjoyable as acknowledged favorites like Drunken Master or even the less-heralded Fearless Hyena. For what it's worth, most Jackie Chan enthusiasts will probably find Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin to be a decent and suitably entertaining experience.

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