The Queen of Kung Fu and the Alternate Universe of Chinese Streamers

The Queen of Kung Fu is a glimpse into the world of Chinese B movies. It's a fun, unpretentious movie about a country girl sold to a dance hall in 1920s Shanghai, but she punches like a wrecking ball and kicks like a mule. The boss of the dance hall adopts her as a goddaughter, and she sets out to clean up the town. The whole movie is 75 blissful minutes of Li Meng Meng beating up a series of corrupt cops, gangsters, and obligatory Japanese baddies.

"The Queen of Kung Fu" and the Alternate Universe of Chinese Streamers
"The Queen of Kung Fu" poster, iqiyi

Just look at the official synopsis:

"The girl with superhuman strength sweeps away the gang! Axi was born with superhuman strength but was abandoned by her parents. To make a living, she had to become a dancing girl. One day, she was involved in a huge dispute for defending someone against an injustice. Let's see how she coped with this and finally became a legendary heroine with her super strength!"

"The Queen of Kung Fu" and the Alternate Universe of Chinese Streamers
Li Meng Meng in "The Queen of Kung Fu", Iqiyi

The movie was shot on standing sets that do more than half its job of making the production look huge and expensive. It's reminiscent of the kung fu movies of the 70s that Hong Kong used to churn out by the dozens every year, only much slicker. It's a very well-shot and edited movie with meticulously choreographed fights. Hell, it's better choreographed, shot, and edited than the action sequences in Disney's recent live-action Mulan, and for a tiny fraction of the budget. It's not an A-list blockbuster production by any means. The cast is mainly TV actors and unknowns. There's the usual patriotic message behind the plot, the expected anti-Japanese message – after all; they still deserve that for the horrors they put China through during the 1920s and World War II, and the heroine becoming effectively a National Hero by the end. The message is really no different from the Ip Man movies starring Donnie Yen.

"The Queen of Kung Fu" and the Alternate Universe of Chinese Streamers
Still from "The Queen of Kung Fu", Iqiyi

The movie is available on China's biggest streaming service iqiyi, their equivalent of Netflix. China has three major streamers: Iqiyi, Youku, and Tencent, in the absence of YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu over there. And these services are actually available online outside of China via their official websites. To dip into them is to enter an alternate universe of Chinese movie and TV programming. You get TV series of all ilk: wuxia romances, modern romances, teen dramas, detective thrillers, but it's the movies that are a surreal experience.

Diving into Chinese Streaming Services

To see the selection of the hundreds of movies on Iqiyi is to enter an alternate universe of B and D list movie of various budgets of the sort you would have seen on late-night Cinemax back in the 1990s, only without any sex or nudity. There are cheesy Science Fiction movies made with cheap CGI, many of them Terminator rip-offs, zombie movies (before the ban put a stop to their production), post-apocalyptic thrillers, cheap action thrillers, heist thrillers made on a shoestring, running around 80 and 75 minutes. These are the types of filler genre flicks that Roger Corman, Troma, Charles Band used to produce all the time, except they're all in Chinese. They have the same dodgy production values, the same weirdly-paced scripts that don't so much end as stop, the same haphazard throw-everything-at-the-wall craziness of making a movie just because you can see in those US productions – except it's all Chinese. You can pick out the more expensive productions by the fact that those are the ones that run 90 minutes.

"The Queen of Kung Fu" and the Alternate Universe of Chinese Streamers
Li Meng Meng in "The Queen of Kung Fu", Iqiyi

Outside of their official websites, iqiyi, Youku, and Tencent also launched official YouTube channels where they post clips and sometimes also entire TV shows and movies for everyone to watch for free. This is for people outside of China who might not have the energy to find their websites and sign up. Iqiyi also offers free streams on its official website without the need for signing up or paying. This is how you can watch The Queen of Kung Fu.

About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.