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Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

magic-cop-dvd

In a small rural village, a man (Uncle Fung) who banishes demons for a living and uses old Taoist methods lives there with his beautiful niece. A dead young girl in the village becomes a zombie and it is only through considerable effort she is stopped as even a bullet in the leg does not do anything to halt her. It is found she has been injected with a drug that makes her seem invincible. The man along with his niece heads to Hong Kong to find out who is supplying the drugs. He teams up with 2 police detectives who are only too keen to help him out as both have taken a shine to his niece. They discover that the zombie girl was in fact a drugs mule and soon the trail leads them to a powerful Japanese evil witch who is behind the drugs and using dead people as drugs couriers. Can they defeat the witch who has an endless supply of magical spells at her disposal?

Wrongly advertised in some quarters as the fifth installment of the Mr Vampire series, this movie is hugely exciting and entertaining to watch. The combination of police drama, superb action set-pieces and ghost hunting along with a fast frenetic pace employed by director Stephen Tung help make this movie one of the best HK fantasy actioners from the early 90’s. It is a highly imaginative movie which uses Chinese folklore tales to good effect. Unlike the Mr Vampire series which has traditional hopping vampires and is set in the past, this movie has a contemporary setting and uses zombies instead and one evil badass Japanese witch. Although some elements of the movie does have some humour (mostly involving a bumbling cop helping Uncle Fung), the plot is mostly serious in tone. An aspect of the story can also be taken as the old vs the new with Uncle Fung’s traditional methods coming up against the present in which Fung isn’t too impressed with modern day society especially with equipment such as fax machines etc.

The plot builds up very nicely and during the stunning climax the evil witch goes toe to toe in a long spell casting contest with Uncle Fung in a fabulous fun-filled finale on top of a building. It does get a little bit far-fetched as she is set on fire and thrown down a lift shaft but she comes back up as a flaming corpse to chase the heroes around a room by using sound to track them down as her eyes have been burnt so she can no longer see. It culminates in a satisfying ending to the movie.

magiccop screenshot

Lam Ching-ying takes the leading role as Uncle Fung. He is brilliant in this movie especially in his fight scenes when he takes on a couple of young and buff fighters in Frankie Chan and Billy Chow before taking on Michiko Nishiwaki. Lam also choreographed the slick fight scenes and instead of concentrating on long scraps he keeps them short and sweet. Seeing him kick ass on a bunch of bodybuilders in a gym is superb. It’s a shame that Western fans only recognise him for doing these kind of roles as he was unfortunately typecast as a monk in many movies. Wilson Lam plays Officer Lam who is highly skeptical of Fung’s Taoist skills and is a bit of a ladies man. Lam and Fung clash as Lam has his eye on Fung’s beautiful niece and he is very protective of her. Fung doesn’t take too kindly to the way that Lam treats his female colleagues (i.e slapping their arses) but gradually the pair set their differences aside to crack the case. Wong Mei-Wa is only in this movie to look beautiful and act in peril as Fung’s niece. Michiko Nishiwaki is superb as the leader of the drugs gang – a particularly nasty witch who seems to molest her pet white cat when she is doing some of her evil spells. Those that don’t want to see a visibly distressed cat should look away from these scenes.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this wild and unpredictable movie with a wonderful performance by Lam Ching-ying. It is well worth checking out if you can get a hold of it. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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sister-street-fighter-hanging-by-a-thread-poster

A man that’s been attacked hands his glass eye over to Koryu Lee before dying. The eye has a small microfilm inside that has information about a diamond smuggling ring. Koryu is given an assignment of finding the daughter of a wealthy family as she is friends with them so off she heads from Hong Kong to Japan. Koryu discovers that the same diamond smuggling ring that was on the microfilm has captured the daughter along with other girls. The girls are being used by the gang to smuggle diamonds by surgically implanting them into the girls’ ass cheeks! Will Koryu manage to smash the gang and save the girls?

Made very quickly after the success of the first Sister Street Fighter movie, this is basically a rehash of the first movie but instead of looking for her missing brother, Koryu this time round is looking for a missing family friend. The same production team all returned for the fast turnaround in completing this movie. Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi sticks to the same tried and tested formula that worked before. The only difference is there more fast and furious action, more exploitation and more sadistic gore. I would say it’s better than the first movie which is rare usually for a sequel. There’s no cameo by Sue Shiomi’s mentor Sonny Chiba in this movie, instead she gets Yasuaki Kurata who plays a man named Tsubaki as her backup who brings his own intense and frenzied high kicking/brutal style of fighting to the table. Together the pair take on the smuggling ring and proceed to destroy their operations once and for all.

sister-street-fighter-hanging-by-a-thread-screenshot

There’s hardly any pause for breath in between the action that takes place. Koryu takes on an assortment of colourful villains with their own fighting techniques which includes a zulu spearman and a weird pairing of a mad doctor with his transvestite assistant who has razor sharp fingernails. The story is completely OTT so you expect to see characters like that in this type of movie! It culminates in Koryu and Tsubaki entering a place full of ninjas and some assassins sparring where the pair kick the merry shit out of all of them with a classical composition by Mussorgsky as the soundtrack!! I did mention that the gore content has been increased in this movie and the viewer will see a couple of eyeballs being pierced, an armpit stabbing and Koryu slicing off an opponent’s arm! I did wince at seeing a woman’s ass cheek being cut open by a surgical knife to retrieve some diamonds – all done without any anesthetic. Poor woman – that must have hurt! Other women are seen being tortured by flame. The only thing I felt let down was the need to copy an aspect from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon by the chief villain Oh and a ludicrous aerial battle.

Sue Shiomi had a great debut in the first Sister Street Fighter movie and in this movie she looks settled and fights better than ever. It helps that she’s easy on the eye . She even handles a nunchuka which I imagine is a difficult weapon to master with ease. Shiomi may be small in stature but she more than makes up for that in her martial arts skills and holds her own against anybody – a mistake many of the baddies make in this movie is they assume she’s weak just because she’s a woman. You wouldn’t want to make her angry at all – she’s as tough as she comes! It becomes a personal mission to smash the smuggling ring for Koryu when she finds out her sister is involved and has been tortured. Her male co-star Yasuaki Kurota wasn’t a fresh faced newcomer to this genre as he had previously performed in a couple of Hong Kong productions before this movie. He is very impressive in this movie.

Overall, the 2nd Sister Street Fighter movie is a lot of fun and very entertaining to watch. If it’s non-stop action you desire you’ve certainly come to the right place. There are still 2 more sequels that I need to see sometime in the future and if they’re anything like this movie I know I’ll enjoy them. Give this movie a go if you’re into crazy martial arts/action movies.

No trailer but here’s a clip of Sue Shiomi beating up some trees!!

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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In the line of duty 6

Two cops Chen and Hua (one from Mainland China and the other from Taiwan) go to Hong Kong on the trail of smugglers who are using the city as a temporary base to hide 600 guns before it is shipped on to Taiwan to sell. Their confrontation with the smugglers on the streets raises the ire of the HK Police who are furious with the two for bringing their fight to the city. They assign a tough female detective Madam Yeung to assist them with the hope of bringing the criminals to justice. The only problem with trying to catch the smugglers is they have better firepower than the cops which brings danger to everybody concerned.

Viewers who have been following the ITLOD franchise from the beginning will have seen the standards have slightly dropped since no.4 and this one unfortunately whilst having a couple of nice set pieces never really hits the heights that were achieved in the first 4 movies. It starts out really well with Cynthia Khan’s character having a great one-on-one fight on top of a 16 wheeler truck which continues with a running gun battle on the streets before it ends on a high in the last 15 mins with a brilliant gunfight battle at the smugglers lair. Sadly it all falls apart during the middle section where things slow down and the dialogue between the two male cops and the HK police is more about the differences between the law in the colony and that of the pair’s respective countries. The Chinese cop falls for the sister of the chief smuggler which complicates matters. It also has some comedy that isn’t funny at all – an example of this is the Chinese cop not knowing how to work a microwave oven and he promptly blows it up in Cynthia’s apartment. Some of the lame brained comedy on offer may even upset some viewers (the talk about homosexuals in a bar is particularly cringe-worthy and rather offensive).

In the line of duty 6 screenshot

There’s a lot more focus on the two leading male characters in this movie which means that Cynthia’s screentime is less than the pair which I thought was a mistake. The fact that the pair squabble all the time is rather annoying as well. Naturally all of this is resolved as they realise that only by teaming up with each other can they take down the bad guys. The movie only comes alive when Cynthia gets to do what she does best – kicking ass and taking no prisoners. It’s particularly memorable in this movie as she fights in a rather tight short skirt which will please many male viewers!! I’m not sure how she was able to perform certain kicks with that skirt – one guy goes flying with tremendous speed from one kick (it’s like he’s attached to a large rubber band that snaps back). She even gets to smooch with the Taiwanese cop right at the end of the movie before she comes to her senses and gives him a good right hook in the mouth which ends the movie.

This is certainly not one of the best entries of the ITLOD franchise. The action scenes are too sporadic throughout the movie and isn’t that exciting apart from Cynthia’s initial fight. It just about managed to maintain my interest. Just one more movie (Sea Wolves) to go before I’m done with watching all 7 in the franchise. I only hope it’s a bit better than this one!

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Protector 2 poster

Set 5 years after the events of the first movie, Kham is teaching kids how to communicate to elephants with the help of his beloved Khon who he treats like a brother. He learns through a friend that somebody wants to buy his elephant but he refuses. Kham leaves Khon with his friend whilst he goes to town. When he comes back to his place, his friend has been attacked and his elephant kidnapped once more. Kham goes to the house of the person that wanted to buy Khon only to find he’s been murdered. He’s caught in the house by the dead man’s two nieces who assume that Kham has murdered him. Kham is forced to go on the run from the two women. The real culprit is an organisation headed by a foreign man named LC. They kidnap Kham and ask him to assassinate a politician to bring about a civil war between two countries or Khon will come to some harm. With the help of an Interpol police agent and one of the nieces, Kham sets out to destroy LC and his organisation.

This movie heralds the return of Tony Jaa who went on hiatus for a couple of years and allegedly became a monk (not sure if that’s true or not?). His last movie before he disappeared (Ong Bak 3) was a total disaster. The problem that led to his hiatus was because of a 10 year contract with Samhangkol Film International that Jaa was tied up to. He wanted to do other movies but they weren’t going to allow him to do that. It’s alleged that Jaa had a bit of a breakdown because of this problem so he walked away from everything and waited until the contract had finished. This has now happened which is why he’s back making this movie. The funny thing is Jaa has signed up to the same studio again and they’re the ones behind this movie. I just hope Jaa has asked for some concessions this time with his new contract or the same problems could arise again. Another person returning is female action star Jeeja Yanin. Back in 2012 she shocked her fans when she announced she was pregnant and was going to get married. A movie containing both these Thai action stars you’d hope would be a right cracker but as you’ll see in the review below this movie is a bit of a mixed bag and it doesn’t really deliver.

It’s best for me to tell those that expect this movie to mark a return to form for Tony Jaa to lower their expectations. Trust me, if you do this you won’t be disappointed by what you see. It is nothing like the enjoyable first Protector movie. The biggest problem with this movie is the overuse of CG effects which is really ropey and looks terrible. Gone are the real stunts and proper fights we saw in Jaa’s previous movies. The reliance on third-rate special effects and wirework is shown at its worst in an overlong motorbike/rooftop chase during the first half which at times looks fake and it isn’t even believable. You have to suspend your disbelief watching this sequence. I have no idea why the Thai filmmakers turned their backs on the raw stunts/fights – elements which had made the previous movie so successful.  It seems that Jaa isn’t even fighting at his usual speed during the movie, perhaps he was asked to slow down to accomodate the limited martial arts skills of RZA and Marrese Crump. I did find it strange why they also chose to rip Star Wars lightsaber sounds for one of Jaa’s fights on electrified train tracks. Wonder if George Lucas knows about it?

Protector 2 screenshot

Tony Jaa is just OK in this movie, he is definitely not at his best here. It’s gonna take a movie with a better script to repair his reputation. I was quite pissed off at the treatment of Jeeja Yanin. She is shamefully underused and only pops up now and then to help Jaa’s character out and coupled with the fact that she is made to look weak in certain scenes this really annoyed me. What an opportunity the director had in having two of the hottest Thai martial artists around in his movie and he totally screws it up. The worst actor of all in the whole production is RZA (he of The Man WithThe Iron Fists fame) who doesn’t come up to scratch as the lead villain. He is just terrible and his acting is pathetic in this movie. Couldn’t they have picked somebody better to go up against Tony Jaa? I’m sure there are plenty of actors who could have done a much better job. Marrese Crump as RZA’s no.2 in his organisation manages to outshine his American co-star by having a couple of great one-on-one scraps with Jaa.

At the end of the day, whilst it’s good to see Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin back on the big screen, I can’t rate this movie other than plain average. The plot is a bit of a mess and the awful CGI effects doesn’t help things one bit. Hopefully things will improve for both stars in the future and I eagerly await their next movies.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Deadful Melody dvd

A little girl and her brother are forced to flee with the family’s magic lyre when their parents are massacred although they are split up during the pursuit by their enemies. The magic lyre has the power to kill and certain people are desperate to get their hands on it. 16 years on and the little girl named Snow has grown into a woman. She is the current owner of the lyre and hasn’t forgotten about what happened to her parents. She sets out to seek vengeance on those that wronged her. Snow has a plan which will draw out her enemies by asking a courier Lui Lun to transport the lyre to a certain person. She knows that if her enemies find out about the lyre, they are certain to attack the courier in order to steal it. Lui Lun’s father is killed by the villains only for him to discover that he wasn’t his real father. He was adopted when he was a child and that he is really Snow’s sister. Although angry with Snow at first for getting him involved with her plans of revenge, he is eventually reconciled with his sister. They team up together to fight off their enemies once and for all.

This HK wuxia movie isn’t that well-known over in the West but it has all the ingredients of what makes the genre so much fun to watch (which includes people fighting through the air, a ludicrous plot, some OTT characters and plenty of swordfights). The story starts out very promisingly with an exciting action-packed sequence and this sets the pattern for the rest of the movie with the energetic and inventive action scenes coming thick and fast with hardly a pause in between them. At least nobody will be able to complain that the movie is boring!! Viewers could get confused with the complex plot as there is so many characters and trying to fathom which side each of them are on might make your head spin!!  Then again this isn’t a movie to be taken seriously so let the plot go over your head and just enjoy the spectacle that unfolds onscreen.

Deadful Melody screenshot

The plot as you’d expect from this genre is totally bonkers and the lyre in question when played properly can kill a person (in fact they explode in a cloud of multi-coloured dust!!). It seems to me like the filmmakers went in with an ‘anything-goes’  approach to the action scenes. I’m glad they did as that what makes this movie a joy to watch. You just never know what the hell they’re going to come up with next. The special effects and the wirework scenes are exhilarating. The humour in the plot is funny at times as well – some of the colourful dialogue in particular will make you smile! Unfortunately there isn’t a resolution to the story which suggested to me that there was a sequel being planned (which obviously didn’t take place after all).

Some might say that Brigitte Lin is typecast once again in a cross-dressing role but I thought she was great in it. You can always count on Brigitte to give a good performance which came a year before she quit the movie business. Her character isn’t quite so straight forward as you think – her mind has been so consumed by revenge she’s close to becoming just a cold hearted murderess and not somebody that’s out for justice for her parents. Yuen Biao holds his own with Brigitte Lin but he sure looks his age in this movie. He also doesn’t get to show a lot of his usual acrobatic martial arts skills because it’s more about sword-fighting so I felt a bit let-down because of that. Biao and Lin complement each other quite well in this movie. Although she’s not in a lot of scenes, Siu Wing-Sang is stunning as a witch who is deadly with a whip and the reliable Carina Lau is also funny as a feisty woman. The actors playing the clan leaders who are after Snow and her lyre also give good performances

If you’re a fan of OTT wuxia movies you should find this enjoyable enough. It’s far from being a classic but it will hold your interest due to the enthusiastic action scenes. I had fun watching it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Iron Angels 3

AKA Iron Angels 3

Moon is a secret agent working undercover in Thailand who joins a suicide assassin organisation as a Japanese bodyguard called Yoko. Her evil boss is a foreign lady who has a small pet crocodile she carries around on her arm. When Moon has to ditch her secret transmitter on the way to her boss’ mansion, she loses contact with the rest of the team which includes a Thai agent named Kharina, a foreign computer geek and 2 male HK agents. They don’t seem to be overly concerned as they know that Moon can take care of herself.  As Moon tries to get some information from inside the organisation about the mission they are about to undertake in assassinating a group of top government officials at a garden party, the other agents from outside try and stop their plan.

Billed by many as the weakest in the Angel (or in some cases it’s called Iron Angel) trilogy, this is certainly the wildest movie of the lot. The high-octane action is incredible and the finale contains some crazy shit going on with a huge body count which sees well over 100 people being slaughtered but I’ll get into that later on in the review.  I thought this movie had Moon Lee as the central character but she disappears from the movie for a large portion and is not present in the climax at all. For a person like myself who is a huge Moon Lee fan I was really disappointed about this. The plot is paper thin but the action that unfolds onscreen is some of the best I’ve seen in a ‘Girls With Guns’ movie so it doesn’t really matter. The action gets going in the opening scene as Moon Lee is in disguise acting like a ditzy woman on a train who gets inside a carriage with a Japanese female passenger and a man. After getting the guard to remove the man thanks to a false accusation that he touched her up, the viewer finds out that the Japanese woman is really an assassin and a brilliant fight ensues inside the carriage. There’s a nod to 007’s From Russia With Love as the Japanese woman has a blade hidden inside her shoe which springs out ala Rosa Kleb. It ends with Moon Lee shoving the assassin’s head through a window which knocks her out and she assumes her identity! There’s even a first for myself in seeing Moon Lee strip off and change clothes. Moon has probably some of the best fights you’ll ever see her get involved in (barring her scraps with Yukari Oshima from other movies). She single-handedly takes on a mansion full of killers with only her martial arts skills, a sword and a nunchaku when her cover is blown.

Iron Angels 3 screenshot

It’s the pair of Alex Fong and Ralph Chen that takes the majority of screen time in this movie and they make for a good pairing. Ralph Chen plays an agent that gets in constant trouble. If he’s not attracting the attention of a suicide bomber who is selling drinks from a mobile stand and has placed bombs inside fake pineapples, he’s annoying the hell out of Thai agent Kharina who he likes very much but she’s not too impressed by him! The story even goes off tangent when the two male agents go to see a Thai boxing match. After Fong’s character interferes in a match when he saves a man from being killed in the ring, his irate opponent challenges him to a match. The viewer is then treated to an extended and very brutal match between the two.

The best action sequence is saved for last as the evil organisation carries out it’s nefarious masterplan and sends a group of assassins on motorbikes armed with machine guns to gatecrash the important garden party. The Thai army manages to repel this raid until a massive truck smashes through a wall and when the side of the truck opens there’s a whole army of assassins ready to attack. As the Thai army begins to get hammered by the onslaught of the assassins, from out of nowhere who should appear on jet-packs which have twin machine guns inserted in the handles but the 2 male HK agents. It’s one of the craziest things I’ve seen in a HK action movie as the pair destroys the assassins. It’s literally carnage within the grounds where the garden party is taking place which is completely littered with dead human bodies!! After taking care of business on the outside it’s time for Alex Fong to have a fight with the head of the evil organisation played wickedly by the blonde haired Saskia Van Rijswijk who enjoys torturing her underlings if they don’t perform to her high expectations. It’s hard to say whether there was a joke involved in having Saskia’s character having a pet baby crocodile, it seemed to me like a parody of a Bond villain. I kept waiting and hoping for Moon Lee to appear and perhaps have a one-on-one encounter with Saskia’s character but it doesn’t happen. I have no idea why she was left out of the finale?

For an action movie this delivered on everything I expected and more besides. Moon Lee is still as cute as a button even when she’s kicking ass. A great ending to the trilogy. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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licence_to_steal dvd

Hung is a female acrobatic thief who is double crossed on a burglary job by her partner Ngan (they have a bit of a rivalry). The result gets Hung jailed. When Hung is released several years later, she finds out that Ngan is now one of the biggest criminals around with a gang of her own. Hung sets out with a  new partner to get her revenge on Ngan and retrieve the valuables she stole before she was arrested all those years ago. What Hung doesn’t know is that her activities are being watched by 2 policemen as they think she will break the law once more. The senior policeman’s young nephew gets involved as he seems to think he’s a hero after reading too many heroic novels. After a number of confrontations, they eventually decide to team up in order to take Ngan and her gang down.

Hong Kong cinema has a long list of incredible female actresses who has taken part in action movies over the years such as Michelle Yeoh, Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Cynthia Khan and Sibelle Wu. This movie features the talents of Joyce Godenzi and Agnes Aurelio who also played rivals in She Shoots Straight – but rather than offer one fight between them this movie delivers four!  Both women are very good fighters. They tear up the screen in this brilliant actioner which was produced by Sammo Hung. What prompts Ngan to betray Hung during a robbery is explained right at the beginning of the movie as the viewer sees both women spar against each other but Ngan always comes up short and can never beat Hung as she isn’t good enough. This rankles with Ngan so it’s obvious she was going to get some payback and this she does by setting Hung up to be arrested by the police. After she’s released she sets about waging a psychological game against Ngan which makes her angry and frustrated. This isn’t just an action movie as there is some comedy involved as well which is mostly provided by a goofy character called No.1 played by Richard Ng (a regular of the Lucky Stars movies). The movie looks like it’s been put together very quickly with just a flimsy plot which just about holds together as an excuse for some awesome girl-on-girl fights. You won’t find any complaints from myself as the intense fight sequences are amazing to watch. The athletic Godenzi and the glamazon Aurelio even pick up a couple of chainsaws and fight with them during their last bruising encounter at a warehouse. It’s not just the two women battling each other in this movie as every now and then Yuen Biao pops up as an eccentric character who thinks he’s a mythical swordsman and interferes in his uncle’s police business.

licence-to-steal screenshot

Former model Joyce Godenzi is on top form in this movie and shows what a graceful fighter she was. Considering that she never trained as a martial artist, the way she manages to perform in the fight sequences is a testament to her abilities in following instructions from her martial arts teacher who was probably Sammo Hung himself. Sammo had cast her in several of his movies previous to this one (Eastern Condors is one example) and she obviously caught his eye as he eventually married her in 1995! Not long after the wedding she made the decision to stop her acting career which is a shame but the movies she made prior to the wedding are a testament to what a great action female she was. Her rival in this movie Agnes Aurelio only had a short career in HK movies but she left a legacy which has left an indelible mark in the minds of action fans due to her impressive physique and the tough characters she portrayed.  Although Yuen Biao is only a supporting character in this movie he does have a superb vicious fight with Billy Chow and Aurelio. I’ve always found Richard Ng to be good at portraying comedic characters and he generates some good laughs in this movie too.

This is an underrated martial arts actioner which deserves to be seen by more people. There’s a good balance of action and comedy and the martial arts sequences are choreographed very well.  Definitely go and seek this out if you want to see an entertaining old school HK action movie.

No trailer but here’s a short taster of a fight featuring Yuen Biao.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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operation_scorpio

Aka The Scorpion King

Fai Yuk-Su is a school pupil who constantly gets into trouble for daydreaming in class that he’s a hero and for drawing manga. One evening he manages to rescue a young maid Siu-Yu from being sold into prostitution by the sinister Mr Wang and his offspring Sonny. Fai’s father sends him to work with his uncle at his noodle restaurant where Siu-Yu is hiding from Mr Wang. In between working for his uncle, Fai is being taught kung-fu at a local school run by muscle bound Jean-Paul in how to build up his strength. Sonny and some of Wang’s goons soon come and trash Fai’s restaurant when he is away from the premises and hurt his father who is visiting. Fai wants revenge and so his uncle who reveals he was a top Triad assassin until he changed his ways teaches him his kung-fu knowledge. The bad guys again visit Fai’s restaurant when Fai is out and Siu-Yu is left in charge. This time they torch the place and kidnap Siu-Yu. Fai and his uncle decide that enough is enough and pay a visit to Wang’s place for the ultimate showdown…….

Not to be confused with the movie starring The Rock, this brilliant period kung fu actioner is chock full of awesome martial arts fights and features a memorable villain with an unusual and unique fighting style, the like of which I’ve never seen before in another movie. The story isn’t original at all and it’s the usual theme we see in numerous martial arts movies of revenge. I know for some people seeing the same plot being rehashed over and over again could be a bit boring but this movie stands out above the rest thanks to the young villain Sonny. Seeing him dropping down on two arms and one leg with the other leg arching back exactly like a scorpion waiting to strike its victim is so impressive that it’s worth just watching the movie for that. The movie on the whole is a bit slow to start off but after the half-way point it gathers pace and it ends in a thrilling 2-on-1 fight between Sonny and Fai/his uncle. By the time the end credits come onscreen most viewers will be getting their breath back after witnessing one of the greatest fights in a martial arts movie.

operation-scorpio screenshot

The majority of the storyline revolves around Fai Yuk-Su which is fairly amusing though the pointless romance aspect between himself and Siu-Yu just distracts the viewer from the main plot. Fai’s antics at Jean-Paul’s kung-fu school where his weedy body looks out of place compared to the rest of the students there generates a few laughs. The training Fai receives from his uncle in the restaurant is reminiscent of The Karate Kid but instead of wax on wax off you have Fai washing woks instead!  It’s all light hearted stuff before things become serious. You can see it coming a mile off that Jean Paul and his muscular students will not be a match for an effective fighter such as Sonny who can think on his feet.  Whilst Jean-Paul does get the upper hand in the initial stages of his fight with Sonny, the tide soon turns. Brains will always triumph over brawn! Now if you think Sonny’s scorpion style is fantastic, Fai comes up with a fighting style of his own – the eel style although it’s more like the breakdancing move The Worm! I thought it looked ridiculous but the technique works remarkably well against the scorpion style.

Korean Taekwondo master Kim Won Jin is simply incredible as Sonny, one of the most agile martial artists I’ve seen. This was his debut starring role in a movie.  For some reason many people think he’s been dead for a number of years (I’m not too sure as to the background of that story) but he’s still alive and kicking. Why he isn’t as famous as other great martial arts movie stars such as Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung or even his fellow countryman Hwang Jang-Lee I don’t know? He should be a superstar that’s being talked about by martial arts fans but he isn’t. The climatic fight his character has with Fai and his uncle is jaw dropping.  Veteran Lau-Kar Leung performs well in his role as Fai’s uncle especially when he uses a 3 section staff/normal staff during a fight against numerous opponents while Frankie Chin doesn’t do that much apart from flexing his muscles and showing his chiselled body in front of the camera! Chin Kar Lok was OK as Fai Yuk-Su though I think they should have picked somebody with a better screen presence than him.

Overall, Operation Scorpio would have been just a generic martial arts movie if it wasn’t for Kim Won Jin and his skills. He’s the one that shines the brightest and is easily the best thing about this movie. The story does retread old ground but it is still very entertaining, has got some good characters and the martial arts is amazing. Definitely catch this movie for the final 20 mins.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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eagleshootingheroesdvdv

The master of the kung-fu bullfrog school Ouyang Feng and his cousin have plans to take over China but in order to do that they must first capture the Third Princess and gain a magical manual called The Book Of Yin which is hidden inside a mountain so that they can take the throne. They enlist the help of a stupid Sorceress to aid them in their task. The Princess teams up with a martial artist Yaoshi to also get this manual. Yaoshi’s jealous lover Suqiu secretly trails the pair whilst getting some unwelcome attention from the King Of Beggars Hong Qi. Who will get to the magical manual first?

Although I’ve given the above as a basic outline of the plot, to be honest you could throw that out of the window as this wacky all-star HK comedy is one massive free-for-all which parodies classic wuxia movies. It’s got the same style you’d expect in a Stephen Chow movie. As this movie was shot the same time as ‘Ashes Of Time’, most of the cast of that movie appear in this one as well and Wong Kar Wai is even the producer. You couldn’t find two completely different movies in tone. I never expected this movie to be so crazy and in the end there was no point in even trying to follow the storyline. Some of the weirdness on display is Tong Leung Kar-Wai who plays a gay character where his disembodied head terrorises the entire cast. The head becomes a part of an insane football match between two characters set to a Chinese version of the Match Of The Day theme tune (for those that don’t know what Match Of The Day is, it’s a Saturday night TV programme in the UK showing the highlights of the English Premier League soccer games that have been played over the weekend). To hear that tune in a HK comedy movie was surreal to say the least! I’m just wondering if the programme was shown in HK at all during the 90’s – how else would they know about it? Other strange events happening in this movie includes 3 people running around in creature costumes (an eagle, a gorilla and a dinosaur) who try their best to distract the other characters from finding the manual and some centipedes crawling in people’s stomachs that cause pain whenever a small drum is beaten! The movie builds to a climax where everybody converges at an inn and a great big rumble occurs between them all. The comedy had been good until the final third but I’m afraid I did find it a little tiring by the time the end credits came along. I wouldn’t say this is a very good movie but seeing everybody having such a great time carries everything along and you’ll certainly have a smile on your face once the movie’s finished.

Eagle-Shooting-Heroes screenshot
One problem with this movie is there are far too many subplots happening – you could say the structure of the movie is it’s like a couple of sketches with a loose story linking them together. You’ve got love triangles, gender bending shenanigans, musical number etc. If there’s one movie that throws everything but the kitchen sink this is it!! Even though it’s primarily a comedy movie, there’s some solid action choreography courtesy of Sammo Hung. You expect some good stuff from him and he doesn’t let anybody down. He doesn’t make an appearance in the movie though. There’s a big all-star cast for the movie from Brigitte Lin, Jacky Cheung, Joey Wang, Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Maggie Cheung who all seem to be having a ball and enjoying taking the mickey out of a genre in which they’ve all taken part in.

It really depends on your taste in frenzied comedies if you’ll enjoy this or not. If you’re not used to this style of HK comedy it’s best to stay away from it. Those that have seen similar comedies from HK will love it. It’s hard not to crack a smile at the hilarious antics that takes place.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Here we go with last month’s movies that I checked out. Those that I’ve reviewed will not be in this list:

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Kamen Rider W Forever: A To Z/The Gaia Memories of Fate
3 stars out of 5

The Isle 2000
The Isle
3.5 stars out of 5

Satan Returns 1996
Satan Returns
2.5 stars out of 5

Ah My Goddess movie
Ah! My Goddess! The Movie
3.5 stars out of 5

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Blade Of Fury
2.5 stars out of 5

Riding Bean
Riding Bean
3 stars out of 5

Utsushimi
Utsushimi
3 stars out of 5

Boukenger vs Super Sentai
GoGo Sentai Boukenger Vs Super Sentai
3 stars out of 5

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Cops vs Thugs
3 stars out of 5

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Kamen Rider Agito: Project G4
3 stars out of 5

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Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge
3 stars out of 5

Sailor Moon S The Movie
Sailor Moon S The Movie: Hearts In Ice
3.5 stars out of 5

Stone Age Warriors
Stone Age Warriors
3 stars out of 5

intoadream
Into A Dream
3 stars out of 5

Hot For Teacher
Hot For Teacher
4 stars out of 5

Street Mobster
Street Mobster
4 stars out of 5

Wolf Children
Wolf Children
4 stars out of 5

Megalopolis Expressway Trial
Megalopolis Expressway Trial
3.5 stars out of 5

pleasure-kill-poster
Pleasure Kill
3 stars out of 5

Labyrinth of Dreams
Labyrinth Of Dreams
3 stars out of 5

Sixty-Million-Dollar-Man
Sixty Million Dollar Man
4 stars out of 5

redpeonygambler
Red Peony Gambler
3 stars out of 5

About Her Brother
About Her Brother
3.5 stars out of 5

Eros High School
Eros High School: Feels So Good
2.5 stars out of 5

samuraisentaishinkenger
Samurai Sentai Shinkenger vs. Go-onger: GinmakuBang!!
3 stars out of 5

Charisma
Charisma
3.5 stars out of 5

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Girl Boss: Crazy Ball Game
3.5 stars out of 5

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Origin: Spirits Of The Past
2.5 stars out of 5

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Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack
3.5 stars out of 5

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Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
3.5 stars out of 5

Mardock Scramble Second Combustion
Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion
2.5 stars out of 5

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Alone Across The Pacific
3.5 stars out of 5

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Late Chrysanthemums
2.5 stars out of 5

Planzet
Planzet
3 stars out of 5

Guzoo
Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken by God – Part I
3 stars out of 5

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Angel’s Egg
2 stars out of 5

Raise The Red Lantern
Raise The Red Lantern
4.5 stars out of 5

red-spell
Red Spell Spells Red
3 stars out of 5

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Sister Street Fighter

Female martial arts champion Koryu Lee is surprised to learn that her brother Mansei is an undercover Hong Kong detective who had been investigating a heroin smuggling ring until his disappearance in Yokohama. She flies to Japan to investigate, hoping to find her brother and eventually rescue him from drug lord Kakuzaki and chief underling Inubashiri, operating out of a dungeon lair. Aiding her in mission is a friend and martial arts virtuoso Emi Hayakawa and enigmatic tough guy Hibiki, both from her old dojo. Koryu eventually learns the smugglers are using ladies wigs to move their drugs, but to reach her brother she must face a gauntlet of Kakuzaki’s army of martial artists which includes the Amazon 7 – a group of women Thai kickboxers dressed in what can be classed as Flintstones costumes!!

Sonny Chiba takes a back-seat in this spin-off from his successful Street Fighter series although he does appear sporadically throughout the movie. The character he plays is not the same as the one in the original trilogy. This time round the story follows a young female lead and those expecting it to be like Chiba’s trilogy with a lot of gore will be disappointed. If you’re after a lot of violent action and outrageous dialogue then there’s plenty of it in this movie but if you’re after a story with a good plot, realism and some character development I think it would be best if you go somewhere else. It’s your standard heroine trying to save a member of her family plot but in a movie such as this does anybody really care about the story? I certainly didn’t, all I wanted was seeing the bad guys get their asses whipped and you get enough of that in this tale!

sister street fighter screenshot

The director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi never lets the pace flag so the viewer is unlikely to get bored in watching this movie. There’s a colourful cast of nasty villains with various weapons involved such as the henchmen who wear helmets that look like black wicker waste paper bins and one called Hammerhead! A scene has also been copied from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon in that right at the climax, the villain has a metal claw in which to attack Koryu. Just like some of the scraps in Hong Kong martial arts movies expect to see some of them to move from an inside set to the outside as if they’ve been whisked there by magic! There are various styles of martial arts on display and the fights are well choreographed.

It is one of Sonny Chiba’s real life students – Etsuko Shiomi (nicknamed Sue) who takes the leading role in this movie and the 3 sequels that followed. She was just 18 years old at the time of filming of this movie and was a last minute replacement for Angela Mao, a Taiwanese actress who dropped out. In fact it was on the personal recommendation of Sonny Chiba that she got the role. Sue’s character comes across as a likeable person and she’s cute as a button. She’s a nimble and talented martial artist who looks convincing in her fights and is a force to be reckoned with.

At the end of the day, Sister Street Fighter is unlikely to win any awards but if you’re after a mindless but entertaining martial arts movie with a cute leading lady then this movie ticks all the right boxes. It’s a fun movie to watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Aka Chinese Super Ninjas

Two rival kung fu schools engage in a sparring contest to find out which one is the best.  One school thinks they have the upper hand as they have a Japanese samurai with them but they are defeated. As is the case with a samurai losing, he commits ritual suicide but not before summoning his ninja pals. The ninjas then challenge the school and the master sends out his best students out to fight them. Staying behind at the school is cocky young pupil Shao and Chi Shang. The students are massacred by the ninjas with each group representing the 5 elements – blue water ninjas, red fire ninjas, brown earth ninjas, wood ninjas and golden ninjas armed with gold umbrella shields. Not content with wiping out the school’s best students the ninja leader decides to send a femme-fatale to get inside the school and send out detailed information on the layout of the place. The ninja woman Senshi manages to befriend Shao after he ‘rescues’ her from being assaulted outside the school. Having played the damsel in distress role so well, she is accepted inside the school and after getting the information she requires it is sent on a piece of paper by an arrow where it is intercepted by a member of the ninja school. The ninjas attack the school in a night-time raid and kill everybody apart from Shao who is captured. Due to an old trick he learnt he is able to escape and seek out his old master who he hopes can teach him the art of ninjitsu. Armed with his new knowledge and with help from 3 students from his old master, Shao decides it’s time to settle the score and destroy the ninjas once and for all.

This is one of the most imaginative Shaw Brother movies I’ve ever seen containing incredible action and gory battles. The director Cheng Cheh who helmed the excellent 5 Venoms movie pulls out all the stops and throws in the kitchen sink with this fast pacy story which doesn’t relent from the first scene.  You may have seen other ninja movies but this is probably the standard by which you can judge the rest as these ninjas are the baddest bunch of men you’ll ever see with their colourful costumes and their nasty weapons such as the golden ninjas and their shields which can blind an opponent and also fire projectiles to the red ninjas who use smoke and fire to their advantage. Then we have the wood ninjas who disguise themselves as trees and use claws to kill with the water ninjas dragging their prey underwater before despatching them. The brown ninjas are also cool as they hide underground and thrust spears up to the surface to maim their enemies. The confrontation with the ninjas is quite a violent bloody affair with the red stuff sprayed liberally around and one of the good guys literally tripping over his own intestines which are hanging down from his body. Naturally the heroes get their own back eventually with the ninja leader having his arms and legs ripped off from his body! The story and acting isn’t too bad but I don’t think the majority of viewers will be too bothered about that. It’s the fantastic martial arts choreography and blood soaked deaths most people will be interested in seeing……………and perhaps the beautiful femme fatale ninja Senshi who dresses in a revealing fishnet stockings type costume!! I liked how original this story is in using elemental ninjas – never heard of a movie using these kind of ninjas before.

5 Element Ninjas
Five Element Ninjas is perhaps the ultimate ninja movie. It’s got everything you’ll ever want in a cool ninja movie with loads of great action scenes, gore, superb martial arts choreography and there’s not a dull moment in it. Forget your arty farty Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fighting up trees on wire rubbish, this is what it’s all about!! Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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shanghai-express dragon dynasty dvd

AKA Shanghai Express

Cheng fang-tin is a man on the run. Narrowly escaping from a group of Russian soldiers and a bounty hunter, he reappears back in his hometown with a bevy of beautiful ladies set on revitalising the place thanks to his plan of buying every business there. His intention is to use the hotel as a front for his prostitution racket but he needs some customers for his women. With some wealthy people boarding a train nicknamed the Millionaire’s Express which is coming from Shanghai, Cheng concocts a daring plan to blow up the railway track so that the train stops at the station and the customers will spend their money in the town. Naturally this does not go down well with the town’s lawman/fire officer who finds out what he is thinking of doing as he remembers that Cheng was responsible for bringing misfortune on the whole town years before when he blew up a local dam.  However, this is only the beginning of a series of developments as a trio of Japanese warriors who have stolen a valuable map with the location of the Terracotta Army is using the train as a getaway to get back home to Japan with a group of Chinese people tracking their every movie plus a small gang of foreigners is planning a robbery as well.

From a below par martial arts comedy actioner (Operation Pink Squad) to a worthy movie that delivers on all counts – Millionaire’s Express is an epic that’s superbly directed by Sammo Hung with an all-star cast. It starts as it means to go on with plenty of fast fights, action and amusing slapstick set pieces. The western setting for the plot is ideal with Sammo and Yuen Biao taking the lead characters. The comedy aspect of the movie is very funny. I especially liked the scene in the hotel room which has Richard Ng visiting his mistress and being caught by his wife. He tells her a made-up story that he is in reality a 00 agent and his mistress is in fact a fellow agent aiding him in his mission. Who should pop up from under a bed, inside a cupboard and on top of it as he’s explaining his story are numerous men all saying they’re also 00 agents. They had sneaked into the room earlier to listen in on the Japanese trio through the wall who are staying in a room next door! It’s such a hilarious situation as it unfolds.

millionaires-express screenshot
The martial arts sequences are fantastic but I didn’t expect anything less with Sammo in charge. Naturally Yuen Biao and Sammo are at the centre of it all. Both have a short but hard-hitting encounter at the town’s empty railway station but for me the highlight was Yuen Biao’s tussle with Dick Wei. Coming close was Sammo’s scrap with Cynthia Rothrock which initially sees her on top before Sammo dons his best Bruce Lee impression and eventually manages to subdue her after a powerbomb. The final 20 minutes of the movie is a massive free for all fight between various characters. It’s amazing to see Yuen Biao in one scene flip from the top of a burning tall building down to the ground and carry on walking immediately afterwards in one continuous take just to let the viewer know that it really was him doing the stunt. All this without the aid of wires! What a guy!!

The cast reads like a veritable who’s who of Hong Kong comedy/action stars from the mid 80’s such as the beautiful Rosamund Kwan, Richard Ng, Eric Tsang, Hwang Jang-Lee, Cynthia Rothrock and a young Yukari Oshima giving a good account of herself in her first ever HK role by slicing and dicing people with her trusty sword during the frantic finale. I found myself trying to identify everybody in the movie. Jackie Chan must have been busy doing his own stuff as he doesn’t even have a cameo in this movie. It would have been nice to see him appear if only for a small amount of onscreen time.

Millionaire’s Express is as close to perfection in a madcap martial arts comedy movie. The lightning pace of the plot means there’s never a dull moment. HK movie fans will lap this movie up and the combined action/comedy element compliment each other nicely. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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kickboxers tears dvd

Li Feng returns back home with her father’s ashes to find that her brother is participating in kickboxing matches and she’s not too thrilled about it. Her cocky brother is confident about his latest match in the ring and predicts a quick finish to the bout but what he doesn’t know is that his opponent and the referee are on the payroll of a local gangster and chilli powder is rubbed on his boxing gloves to give him an unfair advantage. Even with Li Feng begging her brother to throw in the towel with his eyes being blinded by the chilli powder, he vows to carry on but it all ends in tragedy as he dies in the ring thanks to being pounded relentlessly in the face. Li Feng questions as to why her brother would want to take part in these matches and then she finds out that the gym her brother owned with 2 associates was deep in debt and the only way to pay the money back was to fight. Li Feng vows revenge and challenges her brother’s killer to an unsanctioned match. Despite the size advantage the man has over her, she manages to cripple her opponent but this only makes the situation worse as the gangster’s moll who was the boxer’s cousin now wants to take her out and challenges Li Feng in a fight to the death.

kickboxers-tears screenshot

This is probably one of the weaker movies I’ve seen to feature both Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. It’s rather slow in getting going and has a rather long and brutal no holds barred kickboxing match at the start between Billy Chow and Huang-hsi Liu. It looks good and realistic but it does go on for far longer than what I expected. The story doesn’t deliver anything new and is the usual revenge motive for setting up the plot. It’s just a flimsy excuse to get into the action sequences. After a rather plodding first half which sees a thief trying to mend his pilfering ways after falling for Li Feng, things begin to shift into high gear as we enter the second half and we see finally see Moon Lee doing what she does best – kicking ass and taking no prisoners!! There are a couple of good fights which are competently choreographed. Moon Lee gets banged up a lot during the movie and she takes on who is probably the toughest villain I’ve seen her encounter in the finale set inside an abandoned house. A formidable foe played menacily by Ken Lo who seems to be able to withstand pain. The way he tosses Moon Lee around like a rag doll and even in one scene even smashing her straight through a solid brick wall makes him look unstoppable. The much expected showdown between Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima which I was really looking forward to seeing is very disappointing with their tussle lasting all of 3 minutes. I expected a bit more and the way that Yukari’s character is despatched is poor to say the least so fans expecting something of a good scrap between the two will find it very unsatisfactory….I know I did.

There are far better movies out there featuring these 2 huge female stars of HK’s action cinema of the 90’s to enjoy and whilst this movie isn’t a failure by any stretch of the imagination I did think it was too uneven to rank up there as one of their best. Still, it just about has enough to keep viewers interested.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Enter The Fat Dragon

Ah Lung is a country bumpkin who works on a farm feeding the pigs. An opportunity arises for him to go to the big city (Hong Kong) and help out in his uncle’s noodle shop. Just as he is settling down to working there, a gang of thugs who is making a nuisance of themselves in the area starts some trouble. Being a devoted Bruce Lee fan who can fight like his idol and imitate the great man, Ah Lung sends them all packing. However whilst Ah Lung is out on an errand the gang return and demolish his uncle’s restaurant. As a result he is out of work but with the help of two friends he gets a job cleaning dishes. It’s not long however that Ah Lung is embroiled in a plot by a gang who kidnap a woman he likes and wants to sell her to a billionaire named Pai. Ah Lung sets out to rescue his girl but first he must defeat 3 of Pai’s deadly bodyguards…..

After the death of Bruce Lee in 1973, a slew of Bruceploitation movies were released in Hong Kong that tried to cash in on his name and featured many actors trying to copy his style. Sammo Hung who was a very good friend of Bruce and worked with with him on Enter The Dragon wasn’t very impressed with these johnny come lately’s shamelessly cashing in on his friend’s name so he made this comedy tribute movie to him. Sammo might not look like Bruce Lee but my word he can imitate him superbly. Probably the best person to do it. He even strokes his nose exactly the same way that Bruce did, delivers his noises and is pretty much a master of nunchuks like his friend. Sammo even uses Jeet Kune Do with some kung-fu in the fights. The storyline is mostly episodic in nature and is about how Ah Lung’s fighting keeps getting him into trouble. The fight scenes on display is exciting, fun and fast and get better as the movie wears on. You’ll never see a more agile fat guy than Sammo Hung. It’s hard to believe how good a martial artist he really is. I’m not sure if the climatic showdown in which Ah Lung faces 3 foreign fighters was Sammo’s homage to Game of Death but it features a funny scene of a Chinese man who is blacked up with an afro wig (obviously a parody of Jim Kelly) going one on one with Ah Lung. You can’t help but laugh at the scene. There’s a telling scene in the movie in which Sammo delivers a scathing criticism of the copycat Bruce Lee movies produced at the time when he visits a film set and gets into a fight with a second rate Bruce Lee impersonator and promptly beats his ass and the film crew as well! His put-down comment of “amateurs” after the fight is brilliant. The slapstick comedy is a little bit hit and miss but when it works well it makes you smile. Sammo even has time to poke fun at Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master! His character of Ah Lung comes across as lovable and charming and you can’t help but like him.

Enter the fat dragon clip

Animal lovers might get a little offended in the opening scene as Sammo’s character practices his kung fu on some pigs. It’s hard to say whether the pigs were hurt by Sammo’s kicks. From a lot of HK movies I’ve seen from the 70’s and 80’s, animal welfare wasn’t a high priority on any film set!

All in all, a fantastic early Sammo Hung production considering it was done on a very low budget and a must see for fans of martial arts.

No trailer but here’s a clip where Sammo fights a Bruce Lee impersonator

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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