Wednesday, October 5, 2016
The Golden Child
Los Angeles. Chandler Jarrell is a detective specialized in finding missing children. He gets a new assignment from a woman, a certain Kee Nang, who insists he is the "chosen one" and must save the golden child from the evil forces or else the world will be doomed. Reluctantly, Jarrell flies with Nang to Tibet to go through a dangerous ceremony and obtain a magic dagger. Back in the US, the dagger is stolen by Numspa, who wants to use it to kill the golden child whom he holds in captivity. Jarrell manages to free the golden child and defeat Numspa, who transformed into a winged demon.
It is unknown how much of Dennis Feldman's original script, "The Rose of Tibet", was changed when director Michael Ritchie took over and transformed it into a comedy, yet it certainly seems that such an approach drowned a large part of its poetry. Finally titled as "The Golden Child", the ultimate film pleased very few, since it is a patchwork of several strange, exotic and often incompatible directions and styles that clash with each other. It starts off nicely, with a mysterious kidnapping of the golden child in the mountains by unknown villains, but then "crash lands" by switching to the L.A. segment, which offers very little jokes that truly ignite. The most was achieved out of comedian Eddie Murphy, who manages to salvage some of the scenes thanks to his improvisational dialogues (one of the best ones is when he is passing through a corridor in the Tibet temple, spoofing the words of the wise man: "Only a man whose heart is pure can wield the knife, and only a man whose ass is narrow can get down these steps. And if mine's is such an ass, then I shall have it!"), though even he cannot correct all the bizarre, confusing elements in the film alone.
There are a few good moments here - the one minute scene where the walls collapse behind villain Numspa, and he is transported into the demon underworld, while the camera slowly zooms out, all in one take, is almost brilliant - but the finale is one of the most terrible examples of confused crafting of the 80s. For instance, Numspa is about to aim with his crossbow at Jarrell, and Nang does a long saldo to go all the way to Jarrell and save him by taking the arrow herself. Why didn't she simply run towards him? It would certainly be faster than doing a slow saldo all the way up to him. Why didn't she simply push Numspa away since she passed him? Why didn't Jarrell go after Numspa after that, since the villain just simply slowly walked away after that? And why didn't Numspa fire another round to hit Jarrell this time? The same goes for the finale: Numspa transforms into a winged demon and chases after Jarrell and the child in the car, until he stops their vehicle by crashing an utility pole and blocking the road. Jarrell and the child run by foot into a deserted tower of some sorts, battle the demon there - and then just return to the car, drive around the pole and continue!? Why didn't they drive around the pole in the first place? It is not a good sign when a movie has such an elision of common sense, which contaminates the entire storyline.