As far as shorfilms go, most are worthy of sharing a few written thoughts depending on their substance and potential. Jon Truei’s latest, The 44th Chamber Of Shaolin, produced by Mary Pomilla, stands as potent proof-of-concept that just about brings Truei full circle as an artist and kung fu cinema fan having once beared a Yahoo! username inspired by a Gordon Liu classic, and all while leaning into a bold mixture of outlandish comedy to couple with stylish martial arts action to boot.
The 44th Chamber Of Shaolin dives right into the story of a struggling Sifu (Mario Marin), now fallen on hard times and is resigned to teaching on airplane mode in his backyard with his beleagured disciple (Samuel Dunning) performing most of the grunt work. It’s not until a young teenager (Marshieh Johnson) arrives to inquire about lessons to help defend himself against bullies that Sifu becomes fully invested, offering up a bizzare training regimen that he promises will help his nascent disciple become even stronger, a grift that ensues with an even more ludicrous twist by the end.
A flashback sequence midway into the film explains the origins of our Sifu’s training, ripe with set pieces, costume and character design, and stylish choreography by Joey Min (Yes, Auntie!) that is reminiscent of the kinds of works of Shaw Brothers and 90s Wong Jing productions. This is where much of the film’s martial arts action occurs while the rest of the short explores the whimsical and aberrant training regiment Sifu’s student undergoes. I won’t go into detail as to what the gag here is, which is why I headlined this review the way I did so as to give you a hint.
At an abbrevatory fifteen minutes, The 44th Chamber Of Shoalin does a superb job of introducing its characters with enough depth to get some conversations going as a formidable proof of concept to help foundate the feature film that Truei wants to make after this. Marin and Johnson, son of celebrity martial artist and indepenent filmmaker Willie “Bam” Johnson, bring a solid comedic master/student chemistry in Truei’s latest experiment, conveying a concept that is highly doable with the right director on board.
I believe Truei is that director, and in the wake of Bao Tran’s The Paper Tigers, I also believe The 44th Chamber Of Shaolin deserves to be next in line as the kung fu comedy contender to beat.