Pu Songling (Jackie Chan), a legendary demon hunter, is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearances of young girls from a small village. When he discovers evil forces are kidnapping the girls to feast on their souls, he sets out to save humanity from the inhuman invasion journeying through hidden worlds and colorful dimensions in this fantastical martial arts action-comedy.
What We Thought:
The Knight Of Shadows (also sometimes presented with subtitle Between Yin and Yang) is definitely not the kind of movie you expect when you hear Jackie Chan and see him front and center in the promotional or box art for a film. This story of demon hunter Pu Songling (Jackie Chan) defending humanity alongside friendly demon sidekicks, is billed as a fantastical martial arts action-comedy. It delivers on the fantastical, the action and definitely the comedy (not the only example, but a farting demon Chan weaponizes several times is the easiest to reference), but it falls very short on the marital arts (read: essentially none) especially for a Jackie Chan movie.
Besides a very short scene, from a sort of montage early in the movie where a bunch of his monster allies are practicing martial arts and he seems to be instructing, we don’t really see any used. Usually, no matter the role, no matter the movie, we see Chan do stunts of some kind be it martial arts or some type of comedy schtick or most-often a blend of the two. Even for the brief time he was physically in the Lego Ninjago movie, he did something one would think of as “Trademark Chan”. The closest we get to a typical Jackie Chan scene seemed more CGI than physical and left it not feeling the same.
That being said, he did a great job in the film as he has the charisma, personality and timing to still put on a great performance and carry the story despite not using the hallmarks he has become known for during a career spanning decades. The story itself is kind of a little crazy and all over the place. Featuring a bunch of ridiculous characters, especially among Chan’s monster cohorts, which include the aforementioned farting demon, a multi-limbed tree-like creature that also functions as their flying boat and a little fairy-like being who has powers involving memories including one power that is essentially the Men In Black mind eraser. There is also the young, low-ranking detective picked on by his peers, who while investigating some robberies stumbles into this hidden world of magic and demons and tries to become Pu Songling’s student. He leads them to investigate the disappearances of young girls from a small village which brings them to crossing paths with another, very mysterious demon hunter with obvious secrets.
The Knight Of Shadows is a weird blend of genres, mashed up with several stories and feels like it has ideas taken from other films (especially the romance part of the film) all intertwined with folklore. Yet it turned out as a film that feels relatively original and is an enjoyable watch. I wouldn’t call it great and at times the pacing feels a little off (especially when there is still another chunk of movie after what felt like the ending), but the cast all put in good performances, it looked great, and I had fun watching it. I definitely recommend it if you like Chinese fantasy or are a Jackie Chan fan and want to see what he can do beyond what he is normally known for.