cast: Jackie Chan, Hee-Seon Kim, Tony Leung, and Malika Sherawat
director: Stanley Tong
120 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Cine Asia DVD Region 2 retail
[released 4 May]
reviewed by Ian Sales
Somewhere around two-thirds of the way through, The Myth breaks, and the story simply fails. Up to that point, The Myth (aka: San wa) is both a typical Jackie Chan vehicle and an attempt by Chan to diversify, with mixed success. Chan plays both a modern-day archaeologist and a Qin dynasty general (from around 200 BC). As General Meng Yi, he is responsible for transporting Korean Princess Ok-Soo (Hee-Seon Kim) to his emperor to become a concubine. The caravan is attacked, and Meng Yi and Ok-Soo are forced to make their own way. En route, they fall in love, although Meng Yi refuses to break his word to his emperor.
Meanwhile, in modern-day Hong Kong, Jackie Chan (played by, er, Jackie Chan) has been having recurring dreams – in which he is a Qin Dynasty general taking a Korean princess to his emperor. He is visited by his best friend, William (Tony Leung), a researcher into anti-gravity. William persuades Chan to help him to investigate a levitating coffin in Dasar (which is apparently somewhere in India). At the Dasar temple complex, William steals one of the ‘jewels’ which provides the coffin’s levitating force, and the two of them are forced to flee an angry mob of worshippers. As well as the jewel, William also stole a painting depicting Ok-Soo. Chan recognises her as the woman from his dreams.
The pair escape Dasar with the help of Samantha (Mallika Sherawat), the daughter of a local martial arts guru… leading to the most amusing scene in the entire film: a fight with Chan and Samantha against two Indian policemen on a conveyor belt made of glue (rat traps, apparently). It’s a classic Chan fight, and the two principals leave it wearing considerably less clothing than they had worn before it.
At which point, the chain of the narrative jumps free of the gears of the story… William has determined that the ‘jewel’ from Dasar does indeed provide anti-gravity. He visits an ex-professor who taught both himself and Chan, and whom neither had spoken to after an incident in the past; a much-referenced incident which is never actually explained.
Meanwhile, Meng Yi has successfully delivered Ok-Soo to his dying emperor. His next task is to fetch the Pill of Immortality, which has been held up by an army under the control, I think, of an ambitious advisor to the emperor. Meng Yi heads off with his best cavalry troopers, and there is a great battle.
Chan and William are now hunting for the tomb of Meng Yi’s emperor. They find it – how is anybody’s guess. In the tomb are thousands of troops in some form of stasis, and a living Ok-Soo. She had apparently taken the Pill of Immortality. She mistakes Chan for Meng Yi. Then the ex-professor turns up and they all fight.
Somewhere in the middle of The Myth there is a disconnect; which is unfortunate, because up to that point the film had been entertaining. Chan is no longer as acrobatic as he once was, and the role of Meng Yi appears to have been designed for him to display his acting chops. He makes a good fist of it. The modern-day story is typical Chan material – a mix of everything from Operation Condor to Gorgeous. The Meng Yi narrative has neither the sweeping grandeur of Hero, nor the gorgeous photography of House Of Flying Daggers, but makes an credible stab at depicting Qin dynasty China. Admittedly, the final battle scene requires the suspension of a great deal of disbelief.
As a Jackie Chan film, The Myth succeeds for much of its length. Chan is good as Meng Yi, although he has a way to go before he can entirely ditch his trademark action character. It’s just a shame there’s that break – it’s the acrobatic fight scenes which should leave you blinking in surprise, not the abrupt swerve into an entirely different film.