The Golden Child

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a temple in an unknown location in northeastern Tibet, a young boy with mystical abilities — the Golden Child — receives badges of station and demonstrates his power to the monks of the temple by reviving a dead bird, which becomes a constant companion. However, a band of villains led by a mysterious man, Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance), breaks into the hidden temple, slaughters the monks and abducts the boy.

Some time afterwards, a young woman named Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis) watches a Los Angeles TV show in which social worker Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy) talks about his latest case, a missing girl named Cheryll Mosley. She seeks him out the next day and informs him of the kidnapping of the Golden Child and that he is the ‘Chosen One’ who would save the Child. Chandler does not take this seriously, even after the astral form of the Child and his bird familiar begin following him.

Soon Cheryll Mosley is found, dead from blood loss, near an abandoned house smeared with Tibetan graffiti and a pot full of blood-soaked oatmeal. Kee Nang reveals to him that this house was a holding place for the Child and introduces Chandler to Doctor Hong, a mystic expert, and Kala (a creature half dragon, half woman, who remains hidden behind a screen). The three track down a motorcycle gang, the Yellow Dragons, which Cheryll had joined, and Chinese restaurant owner Tommy Tong, a henchman of Numspa, to whom Cheryll had been ‘sold’ for her blood, used to make the Child vulnerable to earthly harm. Tong, however, is killed by Numspa as a potential traitor. Still not taking the case too seriously, Chandler is drawn by Numspa—whom Chandler begins to continuously call “Numsy”—into a controlled dream, where he receives a burn mark on his arm. Numspa also presents his demands: the Ajanti Dagger (a mystic weapon which is capable of killing the Golden Child) in exchange for the boy. Chandler finally agrees to help, and he and Kee Nang spend the night together.

Chandler and Kee travel to Tibet, where Chandler is apparently swindled by an old amulet seller, who is revealed as the High Priest of the temple where the dagger is kept hidden and, subsequently, Kee’s father (Chandler calls him “Monty Hall” or “Monty”). In order to obtain the blade, Chandler has to pass a test: an obstacle course in a bottomless cavern whilst carrying a glass of water without spilling a drop. With luck and wits, Chandler recovers the blade and even manages to bring it past customs into the United States.

Numspa and his henchmen attack Chandler and Kee. The Ajanti Dagger is lost to the villains, and Kee takes a crossbow bolt meant for Chandler, and dies in his arms confessing her love for him. Doctor Hong and Kala offers him hope, for as long as the sun shines upon Kee, the Child might be able to save her. Driven now by a personal motive, Chandler — with the help of the Child’s familiar — locates Numspa’s hideout, and retrieves the dagger with the help of Til, one of Numspa’s men converted to good by the Child, and frees the boy. But when Chandler attempts to confront Numspa, the latter reveals his true face as a demon from hell. Chandler and the Child escape the hideout, only to be tracked down by the demon in a warehouse. Chandler loses the dagger when the warehouse collapses, but Sardo is buried under a chunk of falling masonry. Chandler and the Child escape and head to Doctor Hong’s shop where Kee is being kept.

As the two approach Kee’s body, a badly injured but berserk Numspa attacks Chandler but the amulet the Old Man sold Chandler blasts the dagger from Numspa’s hand. The Child uses his magic to place the dagger back into Chandler’s hands, and Chandler pierces Numspa through the heart with it, destroying him. The Child then uses the last ray of sunlight and his powers to bring Kee back from the dead. As the movie ends, the three take a walk discussing the Child’s return to Tibet and (as Chandler jokingly suggests) the boy’s prospective fame as a stage magician.

REVIEW:

There seemed to be a point where action films could not be successful without an Asian child in the cast. Following in that tradition, we have The Golden Child, a forgotten Eddie Murphy flick that many assume it part of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise.

What is this about?

A fast-talking L.A. social worker goes through a series of traps and terrors to find a kidnapped Tibetan child with mystical powers.

What did I like?

Melting pot. They say that America is a melting pot of all races, creeds, colors, and religions (despite the fact that if you are something different from “the norm” you live in fear of the out of control cops). In a way, this film mirrors that mixture. It has elements of action, romance, drama, sci-fi, comedy, and fantasy. Not only that, but it mixes them in such a way that all are given ample screen to make them effective in the long term and not give the short end of the stick to the other genres. That, my friends, is good writing.

Charlotte’s web. There have been some truly beautiful women to grace the Silver Screen. Many have gone to be recognized as the total goddesses they are, and others have appeared in a film or two, only to then fade into obscurity. In this film, we have Charlotte Lewis, a total vision of beauty, who I think did stick around for a while, but this was her biggest project. Not only does she command the audience’s attention with her looks, but her character is intriguing. Not exactly one of those characters that dwells in the gray areas, we still wonder what her intentions are and what her relationship with Eddie Murphy’s character will ultimately turn into.

A Lannister always repays his debts. Any Game of Thrones fans out there? For many of the “older” actors and actresses on that show, we can be certain that they had a career, albeit not exactly the most stellar, before joining the cast. I was surprised to see Charles Dance, perhaps better known as Tywin Lannister, appear in this film. Again he is playing a diabolical villain, and he does it so well. Thing is, much like many of our favorite villains from the 80s, there is a higher power pulling his strings that we never see, but that doesn’t make him any less evil. Whilst keeping his cool, he manages to get into Murphy’s head and play mind games as he sleeps, as well as leave a mark on his arm. It isn’t until the climax that the guy loses it and shows his true colors. Personally, I would have liked for him to show more evil power, but you can’t deny this guy has a talent for bringing bad guys to life on the screen.

What didn’t I like?

Cop or not. The whole time I’m watching this film, I can’t help but wonder if this was originally meant to be Beverly Hills Cop II, the next 48 Hours, or something along those lines. I say this because of Eddie Murphy. Look, we all know this was the time when Murphy was at his best, but looking back at his films, he seems to be very one-dimensional. His characters all seems to be carbon copies of each other, at least the cops do. The same goes for this detective-type person he in this film. The only different between him and Axel Foley is that he seems to be more mature, but they still both crack jokes at every opportunity. I would have just liked to have seen more of a line a delineation between this guy and other in the similar field which Murphy has played.

Blue herring. The Golden Child is such a non-character in this film, he might as well have been a red herring, except that we actually see him, so let’s call him a blue herring, shall we? Nothing against the kid, he did what he had to do and I’m just fine with that, but to make such a fuss over him and then to not use him for anything more than some parlor tricks? What fun was that? Honestly, its like Murphy’s character say in the last scenes, maybe he should be a magician. They way they treat him in this film, he might as well have been. If he was the one meant to save the world, or whatever, I hardly believe they wouldn’t send more than just some random private dick to fetch him.

Behind the screen. A mysterious mystical woman behind a screen, and because this is some Asian stuff, surely she’s either old or not human. Well, she is revealed, but I won’t spoil what she is. I will take a couple of moments to say that for someone as wise and, I’m assuming, powerful, she sure was forgotten quickly after the reveal. I mean, as soon as the screen is removed, we see her for a couple of seconds, and that’s it. She’s never heard from again. Seems to me she would have at least had a few words to say about being revealed, but I guess I’m wrong.

The Golden Child is one of those pictures that Netflix just won’t stop bugging me about. I finally took the time to give it a go this afternoon and must say that I wasn’t disappointed in the outcome. Now, that is not to say that this is a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun little watch. Try pairing it with Big Trouble in Little China, which coincidentally, was directed by the man who was set to direct this picture. Do I recommend it? Yes, what harm can it do to watch a fun film? Just don’t expect anything life changing.

3 1/2 out of stars

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