Hong Kong filmmaker Benny Chan has earned a name for himself by directing a string of solid action films including New Police Story, Gen-X Cops and the overlooked Connected. Always a solid director, Chan has come into his own with what is easily his best film—an incredible mix of action, drama, and a showcase of powerhouse acting by his cast. Shaolin stars Andy Lau as General Huo, a cold-blooded, power-hungry military leader with no compassion. When Hou attempts to assassinate his oldest friend and comrade-in-arms, he finds that himself fighting for his own life as his second-in-command (Nicholas Tse) stages a coup. With his dying daughter in his arms, Hou seeks refuge in a Shaolin temple, where he undergoes a spiritual transformation. Under the guidance of the other monks, including Jackie Chan in a show-stealing supporting role, Hou becomes a new man, but the man he was is still threatened by his enemies, who will stop at nothing to destroy him.
Andy Lau, whose past work includes classics like House of Flying Daggers and Infernal Affairs, gives one of his best performances in the familiar role of the arrogant man transformed through Buddhism within the walls of a Shaolin temple. This archetype was made famous by Gordon Liu in the all-time classic Shaw Brothers film 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which set the standard for all Shaolin-based movies. Jackie Chan, who has begun to carve a niche for himself as an aging supporting actor gives Shaolin an added spark of life, and proves that he still has what it takes to pull off an action sequence. Lau and Chan are joined by a solid cast, and under the assured direction of Benny Chan, work to give Shaolin a sense of energy and emotional depth that elevates it above many other Hong Kong action films. Quite simply, this is a modern classic.