Martial Arts of Shaolin (1986)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2008-07-05
Summary: A fantastic and worthy final installment...
Jet Li and his co-stars from the first two Shaolin Temple films reunite for one last go around, this time with Hong Kong maestro Liu Chia-Liang at the helm. Jet Li plays Zhi Ming, an orphan who was left at the northern Shaolin Temple after his parents were killed. He knows their killer, but being a monk, he must stick to the righteous path and avoid revenge. Meanwhile, a birthday celebration for the power-hungry Lord He Suo (Yue Sing-Wai) is being planned, and another group of revenge-minded fugitives, led by Sima Yan (the lovely Wong Chau-Yin), plot their final act. Zhi Ming also hears of Lord He's gathering, and decides he can wait no longer to avenge his parents, leaving the temple and traveling with a lion dance troupe to get close enough to attack. Unfortunately the plot fails, but Zhi, Sima and Chao Wei (Woo Gin-Keung), a southern Shaolin student sent to protect Sima, escape and find themselves on the run together. Although mistrusting at first, Zhi and Chao find they must work together in order to kill Lord He and his minions.

Of the Shaolin Temple trilogy, this final film is clearly the best installment. Many times, mainland offerings suffer from poor direction, no matter how spectacular the martial artists involved are. This time though, the combination of the best wushu artists that China had to offer and the expertise of Liu Chia-Liang behind the camera makes for a magical combination. The plot is a bit thin and some comedic pieces tiresome, but the choreography and set pieces more than make up for it. Jet Li really is in top form here, and he is almost too fast in his battles to keep up with. His fights with sword expert Yue Sing-Wai are fantastic, as are his training scenes with Mantis Boxing hero Yue Hoi. Throw in the brilliant Woo Gin-Keung and comely Wong Chau-Yin and you have a top-rate wushu cast. Director Liu must have had a field day coming up with interesting fights for this group, and it shows from battles on the Great Wall to the final confrontation on an Imperial Barge as it meanders down a picturesque river. It is a shame that, save for Jet Li, these martial artists could not have made more films within Hong Kong studio system, as they would have clearly been superstars with more exposure. I guess we'll have to simply enjoy their mainland filmographies imagine what might have been.

Reviewer Score: 9