Movies

Movie Review

Mr. Chan goes to India

Jackie Chan brings his martial arts skills to India in “Kung Fu Yoga.”

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Jackie Chan brings his martial arts skills to India in “Kung Fu Yoga.”

Delivering entertainment in a way that bridges cultures is Jackie Chan’s stock in trade. His martial artistry and gift for physical comedy have always translated, never mind the subtitles. It’s been a couple of decades now since he became a Hollywood draw, most notably playing buddy cops with Chris Tucker in the “Rush Hour” series. There were also his contributions to the “Cannonball Run” celebrity-paloozas back in the ’80s, if you want to rewind still further.

With his new import, “Kung Fu Yoga,” Chan not only reunites with Hong Kong filmmaker Stanley Tong (“Supercop,” “Rumble in the Bronx”) but also crosses another entertainment divide, into India. The title is a metaphor for the movie’s cultural mash-up, although, predictably, the action hinges much more on the kung fu. Ultimately, the group that this one really hopes to reach is “Raiders” Nation, as the globetrotting adventure yarn extensively, and energetically, riffs on Indiana Jones’s signature moments. You’ll wish that its storytelling polish matched its enthusiasm.

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A visually cartoony, “300”-lite prologue takes us back to the Tang dynasty for an account of the imperial army venturing to India and making off with a priceless royal treasure. Cut to present-day China, where Jack (Chan), a preeminent archaeologist, is enlisted by Ashmita (Disha Patani), a glamorous Indian colleague, to help locate the time-lost loot.

They bring along a gaggle of associates, including — wait for it — Jones (Aarif Rahman), Jack’s treasure-hunter nephew. Even more than Chan, the larger group is far more natural when they’re letting their fancy fight moves do the talking rather than talking, period. Jack and his nephew’s friendly sparring session against a glacial backdrop is an infinitely sleeker diversion than any of their repartee. Ditto for the ice-cleated chopsocky that Jack dishes out when haughty Indian baddie Randall (Sonu Sood) and his goons make an initial move on the booty.

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The movie’s best bits come when Tong’s script eases up on banter and clunky Indy homages and instead simply indulges in random zaniness. It was Tong, remember, who worked a hovercraft chase sequence into “Bronx.” We won’t spoil what exotic animal pops up in the back of Chan’s stolen car during a flashy Dubai chase, but suffice it to say that the locals can afford more than a ferret. And when Chan gleefully gets his Bollywood on over the end credits? That’s worth a thousand stilted words, in whatever language.


KUNG FU YOGA

Written and directed by Stanley Tong. Starring Jackie Chan, Disha Patani, Aarif Rahman, Sonu Sood. At Boston Common. 107 minutes. Unrated (action mayhem, brief language). In English, Mandarin, and Hindi, with subtitles.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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