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Shaolin Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 30

    out of 100

    Village Voice Nick Pinkerton

    This crude, overlong chunk of kung-fu kitsch lays its scene in a 1920s Republican China, torn by internecine fighting and weighed down by drably expensive production design.

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  • 50

    out of 100


    Well-mounted Chinese-Hong Kong martial-arts co-production Shaolin elevates enlightenment above brute strength, but weak helming undercuts the pic's punch.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    Directed with feeling for its richly layered protagonists, the film is elevated by its emotional complexity but simultaneously dragged down by the relative shortage of propulsive, hardcore action.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    The New York Times Rachel Saltz

    If the movie feels old-school (with new-school production values), consider its pedigree. It's no wonder: Shaolin is a reimagining of the 1982 "Shaolin Temple," in which Jet Li made his debut.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Martial arts epic is more violent than others in the genre.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this subtitled martial arts epic from Hong Kong and China is a particularly violent example of the genre. Not only are there (beautifully choreographed) martial arts fights, but there's also frequent shooting, stabbing, slicing, explosions -- and lots of blood. There's a serious, tragic tone to the violence, and children and animals are involved in some of it -- a little girl dies after a battle, soldiers fire warning shots at boys, and horses are injured. There are no other real issues except for the occasional iffy word in the subtitles, like "damn," "hell," and "bastard." Teen fans of martial arts movies will want to see this, especially given the presence of stars Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, and Jackie Chan, but the level of violence shouldn't be underestimated.

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does it compare to other martial arts movies? What about to horror movies? How are certain scenes different from others?
  • Why would the Shaolin monks practice fighting and martial arts when they're dedicated to compassion? Can violence lead to peace?
  • The cook learns to believe in himself by using skills he already had in new ways. What skills do you have that could be used in more active or more positive ways? 

The good stuff
  • message true2

    Messages: The movie's main theme has to do with shunning violence in favor of compassion, and it's presented clearly and powerfully. That said, the film uses an enormous amount of violence to make that point -- even the compassion is demonstrated during the heat of battle.

  • rolemodels true3

    Role models: The main character learns to give up his hateful, violent ways and begins to show compassion, even for his most brutal enemies. Another character begins the film thinking very little of himself, but he learns that he can be useful and eventually becomes a leader.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: Tons of violence, ranging from martial arts battles to slicing, stabbing, and shooting with copious amounts of blood. The overall tone is serious and tragic. Children are involved in some of the violent acts; one little girl dies, and some boys are shot at. There's fire, explosions, destruction, and lots of dead bodies. Horses are shown getting injured.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Not an issue

  • language false2

    Language: The words "bastard," "damn," and "hell" pop up in the English subtitles.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue