Taking a break from his earlier roles as a Bruce Lee imitator, this vehicle for action star Bruce Li sees the actor entering far murkier depths, in a gritty on-the-street thriller which strives for realism at all points in its depiction of furious fight-to-the-death martial art battles. The film's major strength is in the artistic direction of Gwai Chi-hung, who uses atypical camera angles (before it became popular to do so), hand-held cameras and all manner of stylish effects to give the film a true-to-life realism. This is certainly the most 'real' Li film I've seen, with lots of location work in abandoned buildings, in run-down city streets and in decrepit shopping malls to make it feel like you're there.
I also liked the plot on this one, which is different and deeper than we can usually expect from these offerings. It involves some innocent guys nicking gold from a criminal gang, then facing them in a serious of showdowns. So far so good, except there are some unusually violent tortures and incidents, like a guy being shot with a harpoon and then getting a pressure hose stuffed into a certain orifice – very unpleasant! Things then take a much darker turn with the introduction of a hired killer, who doesn't think twice about disfiguring women with burning towels and stalking his way mercilessly through the survivors of the initial fishing trip. What follows is plenty of brutal martial arts action, all well choreographed with fluid camera-work and hits and wounds that hurt.
One of my favourite scenes is the ingenious moment when Li (working as an action director on a movie) is attacked by a false actor, resplendent in white wig and beard, who attempts to cut him to pieces with a huge sword. Sharp weapons are certainly favoured in this film, and the frenetic conclusion sees Li battling imposing assassin Phillip Ko in his own apartment, facing axes, swords, and nasty impaling devices as they fight to the death. Li himself is in great shape and the film never lets up, with about 70% of the run-time devoted to long-running, well thought-out action sequences. Recommended.
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