Constantin Films, the studio that produced the upcoming film “Monster Hunter,” apologized on Sunday for a scene in the film that used a racist playground rhyme, which led China’s film board to pull the film from theaters over the weekend.
“Monster Hunter,” which stars Milla Jovovich and is based on the Capcom video game of the same name, was expected to contend for the top of the box office charts this weekend with an opening in the $16-18 million range. It seemed to be on track to meet that mark with a reported $5.3 million grossed on Friday. But the film quickly faced backlash over a scene that appeared to reference an old racist playground rhyme that went, “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these” as the chanters would pull at their eyes.
The “Monster Hunter” scene in question features rapper MC Jin (Jin Au-Yeung) saying, “Look at my knees.” “What kind of knees are these?” his white male scene partner asks. “Chi-nese!” Jin’s character responds, emphasizing the “knees” pun.
Users on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China, quickly slammed the film for the scene and by Friday evening, it was announced that it would be pulled from theaters.
“There was absolutely no intent to discriminate, insult or otherwise offend anyone of Chinese heritage,” Constantin Films said in a statement. “Constantin Film has listened to the concerns expressed by Chinese audiences and removed the line that has led to this inadvertent misunderstanding.”
Earlier in the weekend, Capcom Asia issued a statement on Weibo to clarify that it was not involved in the production of the film.
“Because the video game ‘Monster Hunter’ and the movie are produced by different companies, after knowing everybody’s opinions about the movie ‘Monster Hunter,’ we have collected many opinions from the public and conveyed your messages to the movie’s production companies,” the statement said in Chinese. “All along, Capcom has been working hard to provide the public with high-quality video games and we wish that in the future, we can continue to meet your expectations.
A representative for Tencent, which co-produced the film and oversees its distribution in China, did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment, but there is still a possibility that “Monster Hunter” could be released in Chinese theaters at another time with the playground rhyme edited out. Huayi Bros.’ “The Eight Hundred,” which has become one of the highest grossing films in Chinese history with $460 million grossed, was delayed after objections by the Chinese Red Culture Research Association. Other films, like Gaspar Noe’s 2015 film “Love,” have been initially blocked from release but later released after edits.