Audiences in the Middle Kingdom called out a racist line of dialogue from an early theatrical release.
Monster Hunter director Paul W.S. Anderson and his stars Milla Jovovich and Jin Au-Yeung (a.k.a. MC Jin) issued apologies this week regarding a controversy over the film that broke out in China.
Theaters in the country pulled the release after it premiered Dec. 4 in light of one particular line of dialogue. Au-Yeung’s character riffs to a fellow soldier in the film, “Look at my knees. What kind of knees are these? Chi-nese.” This was linked to a racist rhyme used to mock children of Asian descent during World War II. Anderson said the line is being removed from the movie, though it’s unclear if Monster Hunter will return to theaters in China, which is an even more important territory for movie releases at the moment given the state of theaters in America.
“I am absolutely devastated that a line from our movie, Monster Hunter, has offended some audience members in China,” Anderson said in a statement to Deadline. “I apologize for any anxiety or upset that this line and its interpretation caused. Monster Hunterwas made as fun entertainment and I am mortified that anything within it has caused unintentional offense. We have respectfully removed the line from the movie. It was never our intention to send a message of discrimination or disrespect to anyone. To the contrary — at its heart our movie is about unity.”
Au-Yeung also spoke up about the situation in a video shared on Instagram. “It’s unfortunate that it has escalated to this level, especially since the line was intended to be uplifting,” he wrote in the description. “I felt a need to address this situation because what is at stake is not my career but something even more dear to my heart – my roots. I’ve spent the last 20 years using my platform to embrace and be a positive voice for my community. I am and will always be proud of my heritage.”
Jovovich, who stars in the video game adaptation as the leader of a military operation who finds herself in a different dimension dominated by gargantuan monsters, responded to her costar’s remarks.
“I’m so sad that you feel the need to apologize. You are amazing and have always been so outspoken about your pride in your Chinese heritage,” she wrote in the comments section of his Instagram post. “The line you improvised in the film was done to remind people of that pride, not to insult people. We should have researched the historical origin of it and that’s 100% on us, but you didn’t do ANYTHING wrong. None of us had ever heard the ‘dirty knees’ reference. You included. It was an unfortunate mistake and the Chinese translation didn’t help. We adore you Jin and are so proud to have worked with you on this fun and exciting project and I hope you don’t let this get you down man. It was our fault for not doing our due diligence and finding the WW2 era rhyme that’s caused this uproar. We love you Jin!”
Monster Hunter also features Tony Jaa, Ron Perlman, Meagan Good, T.I., and Diego Boneta. The film was set to release in U.S. theaters on Dec. 25, but Sony has since moved the date up to Dec. 18.