Gordon Liu gives good glower. In the same way that Clint Eastwood's growl communicates volumes in Gran Torino, Liu, who became a star in 70s Shaw Brothers martial arts classics like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Executioners From Shaolin long before being cast by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill, commands the screen in Chandni Chowk to China as an evil, evil villain. As Hojo, a criminal kingpin whose greatest pleasure lies in decapitating rebellious villagers, Liu fixes a determined, menacing look on his face, matched by a steely glint in his eyes and precise, deadly body language. He wields the deadliest head covering since Harold Sakata's Oddjob flung his chapeau at James Bond in Goldfinger.
Liu is the best thing about Chandni Chowk to China, which opens this weekend at more than 125 screens in 50 markets in the US and Canada and has been billed as the first ever Bollywood kung fu comedy. It's also the first production from Warner Brothers India, though the movie, a pleasantly goofy diversion, doesn't seem to go out of its way to appeal to Western audiences.
Akshay Kumar stars as Sidhu, a cook at a fast food stand in Chandni Chowk, the legendarily busy market in Delhi, India. As he cooks rice and chops vegetables, Sidhu dreams of winning the lottery and escaping the humdrum routine of his daily life, despite the admonishment of his adopted father Dada (Mithun Chakraborty) that success in life can only be achieved through hard work. When two visitors show up and urge him to return with them to China so he can find his destiny, he is all too eager to comply.