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Eddie Peng as the titular character in Wu Kong (category IIA; Cantonese), directed by Derek Kwok. The film also stars Ni Ni and Shawn Yue.

Review | Film review: Wu Kong – Eddie Peng plays the Monkey King in Derek Kwok’s anti-establishment parable

Director plays fast and loose with familiar characters and spins a tale of revolt against an authoritarian regime - which Hongkongers may see as a political allegory; in the end, it’s partly at the expense of the film’s entertainment value

2.5/5 stars

Four years after he was unceremoniously removed from the director’s seat for Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s big-budget fantasy Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons , Hong Kong filmmaker Derek Kwok Tsz-kin ( Full Strike ) is having another go at refashioning the Ming dynasty novel for China’s blockbuster audience. It’s a pity that Wu Kong proves a minor misfire tripped up by its own ambition.

Eddie Peng Yu-yan plays the formidable Sun Wukong (aka the Monkey King), who vows to disrupt Heaven’s order after his own Mount Huaguo is destroyed in a preordained act of oppression. A love interest (Ni Ni) and a fierce rival, Erlang (Shawn Yue Man-lok), enter the picture, though it’s apparent late on that Kwok has a message – on the significance of mastering one’s own fate – embedded in his oddly paced narrative.

Ni Ni plays the protagonist's love interest in Wu Kong.

The film is adapted from an internet novel that provides the origin story for Wukong. This allows its director, who also co-wrote the script, to play fast and loose with the settings of Peng and Yue’s familiar characters and indulge in a tale of anarchic revolt against the faceless foot soldiers of a self-serving and authoritarian regime – one that some Hongkongers may interpret as having a political message.

Aside from this allegory about power, Wu Kong as an effects-driven action fantasy is just not very entertaining. With Rise of the Legend , Call of Heroes and this year’s Our Time Will Come , Peng has shown he can play slightly off-kilter heroes; it’s a shame, then, to see him given so little to work with – ironic in a film that promised to explore his character’s biographical roots.
Shawn Yue plays Erlang in Wu Kong.

Wu Kong opens on August 10

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