Kung Fu: Reboot Not Your Father’s Kung Fu, But Worth A Look – Review

Okay, right out of the gate I’ll make no secret that in the world of “Kung Fu,” I am a purist. To me, this franchise will always resonate with me via David Carradine as Kwai-Chang Caine. So, for that reason – that bias, I was a little apprehensive about digging into the premiere episode of the “Kung Fu” reboot that will premiere Wednesday, April 7, at 8 p.m. on the CW. Every fiber of my being said to stay loyal to the original and not be swayed by this new iteration.

Guess what? I gave in. I’m not sure where this new Kung Fu is going to take me, but I found the combination of martial arts, organized crime, drama, humor and family to be an irresistible pull. And with that, I dove face first into the newness of the series. I found myself delighted with the work of Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen, who must navigate her Shaolin values while re-integrating herself into a family she ran from several years before. And with that comes mystery, bad guys, more mystery, enough butt-kicking to satisfy my restless soul, and a generally interesting first story that sets the stage.

Here’s a little synopsis of the show:

A quarter-life crisis causes a young Chinese American woman, Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang), to drop out of college and go on a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China.  But when she returns to San Francisco, she finds her hometown is overrun with crime and corruption and her own parents Jin (Tzi Ma) and Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) are at the mercy of a powerful Triad.

Nicky will rely on her tech-savvy sister Althea (Shannon Dang) and Althea’s fiancé Dennis (Tony Chung), pre-med brother Ryan (Jon Prasida), Assistant District Attorney and ex-boyfriend Evan (Gavin Stenhouse), and new love interest Henry (Eddie Liu) as well as her martial arts skills and Shaolin values to protect her community and bring criminals to justice…all while searching for the ruthless assassin who killed her Shaolin mentor Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai) and is now targeting her.

KUNG FU stars Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen, Kheng Hua Tan as Mei-Li Shen, Shannon Dang as Althea Shen, Eddie Liu as Henry Yan, Gavin Stenhouse as Evan Hartley, Vanessa Kai as Pei-Ling Zhang, Tony Chung as Dennis Soong and Tzi Ma as Jin Shen.

Christina M. Kim wrote the pilot episode and serves as executive producer/co-showrunner of the series with Robert Berens. Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Martin Gero and David Madden also serve as executive producers.
Hanelle Culpepper is directing and co-executive producing the pilot episode.  KUNG FU is produced by Berlanti Productions and Quinn’s House in association with Warner Bros. Television and is inspired by the original series created by Ed Spielman.

I came into the show apprehensive and fiercely loyal to the original. But, I came away from viewing the premiere episode with a new sense of what possibilities a show like this might have. I gave it a try, so should you.

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John Baker