Journey To The West - Ice Block Quickie

Overly Reductive Plot Summary

Sanzang, an idealistic buddhist monk and aspiring demon hunter, is in over his head when he finds himself tangled in a web involving three vicious spirits and one very infatuated female demon hunter. Things get even more complicated when other freelance demon hunters start muscling their way into the story in search of riches and glory. From there, it's just a matter of chaotic escalation.

Significant For...

Kinetic and wholly unpredictable action sequences typical of a Steven Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung-Fu Hustle) production.

Insignificant For...

Way more gay panic jokes than your typical Steven Chow production.

3 Images Indicative of the Timbre of the Film (But Everybody Knows You Can't Condense a Steven Chow Film to 3 Stills)

Elements Of The Film (Ranked On A Succulent Roast Pork Scale of 1 to 5)

  1. This film has more sexual humor than any other Steven Chow film we've seen and it's not a perfect fit. Chow is at his best when he's launching gag after gag at the audience. The risque stuff feels needless, particularly when it's tired gay panic gags.
  2. Chow's strongest talent is his visually driven, cause-and-effect based action. Unfortunately, there's a heavy focus on improv comedy in this film. Such scenes are entertaining, but always feel a bit thin when they start and often go on just a bit too long.
  3. The opening sequence is easily one of the most complex Chow and team have ever staged. Focusing on a fishing village being terrorized by a demon, the battle tears through most of the town and requires the majority of the villagers for a stunning popcorn-physics lever gag.
  4. That is just the first in a series of brilliant set pieces. While nothing else matches the orchestral physicality of the opening, every vignette brings different ingredients. It all builds to an ending of such grand proportions that it's impossible not to be impressed by the sheer scope of ambition on display.
  5. Chow films are nothing if not ambitious. While Journey is considerably less silly than his other outings, it's still a wild crowd-pleaser. As with all Chow films, you can go in expecting mind-bending spectacle and you will come out with a mind thoroughly bent from spectacle.

Final Verdict

Bad filmmakers are slaves to the myriad complexities of managing a film production. Good ones can keep the format hidden long enough for the audience to enjoy the story. The masters (for example, Spielberg or Hitchcock) work in harmony with the format.

Steven Chow is in the class above that, more like Chaplin or Keaton. He's among the rare folks that seem to be running circles around film, fearlessly chasing every idea through to brilliance and then getting a dozen more ideas on how to improve it on set and a dozen more in post. From Shaolin Soccer on, Chow has presented himself as a filmmaker who could get any concept onto the screen no matter the budget. If the technology or visual vocabulary didn't exist, he'd just invent it and barrel on to the next idea.

This isn't his best effort, but even a decent Chow project is already outside the stratosphere.

So, yeah.... It's good.