Over three weeks after Jack Ma visited the Philippines to give a talk in De La Salle University—disparaging Filipino Internet along the way—here’s a bigger surprise from him. He has always been generous with advice to young entrepreneurs who may be going through the same things he experienced as a young man trying to come up with what would later become Alibaba. But in this particular case, he brings out his inner Richie Rich and stars in a martial arts movie, with him battling well-known martial arts actors and athletes—because Jack Ma.
I’ll do the “imagine, if you will” routine to hit this home. When you’re China’s richest man, you can do whatever you want. If you wish to go toe-to-toe with Jet Li—who happens to be in your payroll—you certainly would do it. You could also have Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, and Manny Pacquiao making a big deal out of you at the end of the trailer for good measure to increase your street cred.
You go through boss fights and come out looking strong like Bruce Lee did in Game of Death. Mind you, it’s just a fun thing you’re doing on the side, so it’s only half an hour long and you release it for free on China’s version of YouTube because you’re a generous man. That’s exactly what Gong Shou Dao is.
Never mind that it’s cringe. Not everyone gets to do something like this at such a great extent anyway, so cringe away if you wish. Jack Ma doing the Adam West thing isn’t so bad, if you ask me. And yes, I’m on Jack Ma’s side here, even if I’m usually against such displays.
NOTE: As this is intended as a full review of this title, there may be some spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Gong Shou Dao Movie Review
I shall now nitpick a half-hour martial arts short film. This may get long. Also, this is just poking fun, so don’t take it too seriously. I wrote this almost in stream of consciousness while watching the video a second time.
Right from the start, the opening music and Jack Ma’s face made me scratch my head. Inside the eponymous temple, a CGI basketball that looks super-CGI’d is passed around. There’s Tony Jaa with lovehandles and shoes, which means he had been living the good life lately, enjoying that Ong Bak money. Former WBO flyweight champion Zou Shiming tries to one-up Amir Khan’s milk bottle trick, only that you can’t really palm a basketball that way.
Jack Ma enters the vicinity and immediately picks a fight with mid-life crisis Tony Jaa. After a brief exchange, the Muay Thai guy who broke all those bones in Tom Yum Goong over twelve years ago gets kicked in the balls by a 53-year-old businessman with eight years of training.
Zou Shiming joins in on the fun, but fights like he’s Gennady Golovkin—who he isn’t. He does hit Jack in the liver, but he did just lose via TKO to Sho Kimura last July, so he’s not 100% yet (I don’t know when this film was shot). Jack ends up taking him down with a scissor leg takedown into a weird-looking no-hands toe hold-slash-calf slicer (it’s not a step-over toe hold).
Product placements in his own short film. Because of course.
A dude in a crop top tumbles around and gets tai chi’d by Jack. Then out of nowhere, a chick comes up to fight and Jack gives her the usual “I don’t hit women” remark. Her husband comes in and they start stickfighting, and all I could really notice is how well the actors are shot and the loud Peking opera music. I do have to say, they’ve done well enough choreographing the fight scene with the music, which is the whole point of Peking opera music in the first place.
I then started looking at the set design. It has a semi-industrial warehouse look with arcade machines on one side, a lounge on the other, and a basketball court. I guess it’s kind of a man cave, but why are there martial artists in funny clothes? Is this a gang hideout? Was this film video game-inspired?
If you don’t get it yet, these are rhetorical questions.
He then enters this hub with dancing girls. Of course, the protagonist is being praised for his coolness as he walks in because this is his movie. The sumo guy about to get a shave in the barber shop does not like this, so he barges in. I like how they play Mongolian-style throat music as Asashoryu walks in with his posse—at least they acknowledge he’s Mongolian. He takes his robe off and reveals that he’s wearing his mawashi. Always be ready, I guess?
Hey, they actually give Asashoryu a fighting chance. Usually, the big fat brute is made to look bad right from the start, but they actually make the former yokozuna look strong here. They even showed off a bit of his agility, which Asashoryu was known for during his sumo career. Jack eventually bests him with a lucha libre-style takedown, which is also present in other styles like Vovinam from Vietnam.
Jack then enters an ancient-looking lei tai circle, where he encounters Donnie Yen’s abridged Ip Man character and Jet Li’s interesting old man servant character. Jet Li is really good at playing an old man (he kinda is anyway at 54; actually older than Jack). An assortment of dried herbs are brought in (some of which, I recognize) to help Master Donnie Yen wash his feet or something, maybe alluding to arthritis from all the talk about his 3-kick limit.
Then he dumps the herbs for CGI janitor fish? wat
Now it’s Jack Ma versus Ip Man, Tai Chi versus Wing Chun. I like how the action was communicated in much of this fight scene, but I also don’t like some of the cuts as well. My guess is the editors had a hard deadline. Despite that, for a fun project, these are pretty good fight scenes. I guess that’s what happens when you have practically centuries of combined experience among your crew.
Anyway, Donnie Yen technically loses that fight as he went over his 3-kick limit. They then went on to wash their feet, but Jack’s feet were so dirty, it mucked up the pool, which is simple enough storytelling there. Now it’s the old man servant’s turn to shoo away the trespasser. Again, I say he’s so damn good at playing a surly old geezer, I’m actually impressed.
Geez, that skybox is so… skybox-y.
I guess since they’re the closest among the cast here, their fight scene is the most fleshed out. Then they pull of the 180 of it being a daydream of sorts. Turns out the temple is actually a police station, and he inadvertently hit a cop. Then there’s an ending sequence with Jack doing a cult of personality thing of doing tai chi forms in front of mother nature because he can. The cheese meter breaks itself at this point.
Then the credits roll. That was fun while it lasted, and I have another blog post to publish. At least, it was free to watch. Thanks, Jack Ma. I guess. Since he low-key shit on Filipino Internet, I can’t totally shit on him. He’s a good dude in my book.
I’ll just briefly mention some additional concerns about the short film here. For instance, the director is some young dude, which is alright. There’s also Sammo Hung in the posters, but he’s not present in the film itself as he served as the main fight choreographer.
Other than that, I’m expecting a half-assed video game out of this IP, and that’s about it.
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