Zhang Li Peng is a true Shaolin Monk, he is a 32nd generation Monk who started training at the age of three at the Shaolin Temple in China. He has traveled the world demonstrating his art with the temple.
At the age of twenty two he left for the Netherlands for anew life and set up a stage show about the arts which ran for five years.
In 2000 Zhang moved to New York to start a career in film ,by producing ,writing and acting in his films he has produced and starred in a range of films where he depicts the spirit of Shaolin..
Here we look at two of his films ,the first from 2010 – The Last Kung Fu Monk and the more recent 2012 production of The Man from Shaolin.
The reason where reviewing these films together is because once you have viewed the films your realise that they have much in common.
Zhang Li Peng on the front cover of a popular Kung Fu magazine
The Last Kung Fu Monk
Li is a Shaoln Monk who must travel to New York to look the son of his brother who has died in a car accident. He meets a old friend who suggests they should open a Martial arts school together. .
Li also has to contend with becoming a father figure to his nephew to which ends up being more of a challenge then he bargained for , what's more his friend had borrowed money to open the school from the mob and ends up falling out with the mob . Which puts the school at risk and his friends life to.
I must give it to Zhang Li for putting together a film and then making it for a international market and shooting it in English.
The action scenes are well executed and Li proves he really has talent in the fight stakes. It's only downfall here is that sometimes his adversaries are not up to performing up to his standards.
The film plays like a low budget version of Ong Bak ,where Li must fight to secure the safety of his family,friends and students.
But there is one underlying fault with the film , the acting is so poorly done. Actors don't know when to come in for their lines , sometimes the viewer is left waiting for a response from one person or another and when it's delivered it's so unconvincing it's laughable.
What's worst is Li's ability in speaking English is not up there with the best, and quite often I needed subtitles to know what he said. But of course there are none as this film is in English.
With a bit more time and money spent on some dialogue coaches and better actors this could have been a contender for one of the best low budget action films of the past few years.
Sadly your find your self laughing for the wrong reasons as the entire film plays like one long rough cut or blooper. A shame when the action is so good compared.
Score out of Ten = 4
Review Date : 2nd October 2013
The Man from Shaolin
Now The Man from Shaolin was made two years later, the story is like a rerun of the above film, this time Li the monk must go to New York to take care of his niece Janie who has lost her mother in a car accident. ..
His buddy Carl and himself open a martial arts school to try and make a living. But after his friend introduces him to a underground fighter whose interested in training with him and entering into a venture .
But Li is not interested and when he is challenged by the fighter and refuses to enter into battle Li loses face with his students who end up quitting the school.
This of course raises trouble for caring for Janie as he cannot provide for her. Now this film also has a underlying story ,which evolve as Li's dreams. It tells the story of the attack on Shaolin temple ,these scenes crop up through out the film and at times it's like watching two different films.
Once again the action in the film is very good, with only some of the camera work not doing the best for some of the scenes. But also the dream scenes seem to have more action and better choreographed fights then the main story.
It looks like Zhang Li Peng is quite ambitious in his film making and story telling. But to truly depict what he's trying to do he really needs a bigger budget. One thing your notice over ''The Last Shaolin Monk'' is the acting has improved ten fold, but it's still not perfect, also this film also has a mixed English and Mandarin dialogue .
If you watch both films in succession or over a couple of days their similarities are so close that you could fool yourself into thinking your watching the same film, but if for the dream scenes ,they are the only part that sets the two films apart at times.
This is a much better effort on Li's part and even his English had improved by this films filming.
Man from Shaolin won't offer you non-stop action , Director and actor Li has put together a heartfelt drama that features Martial arts ,it's as much as the spirit and honour of the arts as it is about the fighting.
Score out of Ten = 6
Review Date : 2nd October 2013
Zhang Li Peng looks set to become a regular on our screens , since the above two films he has starred and produced and Directed others which we will feature on site in due course.
The Resistance - 2013 - Zhang Li Peng and Serena Hu -review soon
Blooming Flowers - 2013 - Zhang Li Peng,Bianca Giancoli - review soon