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  • THE LONG CHASE (1971) is a run-of-the-mill Shaw Bros. swordplay film that benefits from a fast pace, plenty of action and three dependable leading players. Yueh Hua stars as an assassin who flees after killing a hated prime minister, with Lo Lieh as the relentless imperial guard who pursues him to a remote village being terrorized by bandits. When Yueh takes over the identity of a county officer newly assigned to the village, his ruse is assisted by a pretty innkeeper's daughter (Li Ching) who insists to Lieh that Yueh is indeed the county officer and happens also to be the cousin who was betrothed to her as a child. The confused innkeeper is persuaded by his daughter to support the ruse, thus delaying Lieh's efforts to arrest the wanted man.

    Pretty soon, both Lieh and Yueh have their hands full with the bandits, but manage to beat them back. In retaliation, the bandits kidnap the innkeeper's daughter and hold her as hostage, necessitating a raid by the two heroes on the bandits' stronghold. Eventually, Lieh has to make good on his commitment to arrest Yueh or risk a sentence of death himself at the Emperor's court. This creates a powerful moral dilemma for both men. Parts of the film, including the whole final sequence, display a striking resemblance to the old Warner Bros. crime drama, THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL (1939), in which detective Claude Rains pursues fugitive boxer John Garfield to a ranch for wayward boys (the Dead End Kids) in the Southwest and is torn over whether to arrest him or not after seeing what a positive influence he's having on the boys.

    This may not be the deepest plot for a Shaw Bros. production, but it benefits from assured direction by Ho Meng-hua (the MONKEY KING quartet), clever staging of the many fights, a tight running time (82 min.) and charismatic star performances. Yueh Hua (THE MONKEY GOES WEST, COME DRINK WITH ME, many others) has more fight scenes here than in any other movie I've yet seen him in and he does most of his own stunts as well. Lo Lieh, a frequent Shaw Bros. star both in hero and villain roles, is as good as I've ever seen him and Li Ching, one of the many beautiful Shaw Bros. female stars to emerge in the 1960s, is almost as dazzling and vibrant here as she was in HONG KONG RHAPSODY (1967), in which she played the central role.
  • It begins when Yueh Hua assassinates the corrupt official. Lo Lieh is unable to capture him. Now his life is on the line if he cannot bring him back alive in four days.

    I have written before that almost all martial arts movies can be sorted into four different plots. First is revenge as in "You killed my master. Prepare to die." Second is the martial arts expert has made a promise not to use his skills but eventually reaches the point where he must break that promise. Third is finding the right master or learning the right martial arts style or one particular technique to overcome the enemy's one weakness. Fourth is the tournament plot where martial artists gather for one big showdown. I find it amazing that Bruce Lee made four movies and each movie uses one of these four plots. There are a few more plots and this movie has my favorite.

    I call this plot "The Iron Monkey". The main point is there is no protagonist and no antagonist, no good guy and no bad guy. In this movie both Yueh Hua and Lo Lieh are good guys. This was the same situation in the Donnie Yen's 1993 "Iron Monkey". (Also, here Li Ching is held prisoner and there Huang Fei Hung was imprisoned.)

    When you have two good guys the climax and resolution of the story has to have two winners. In this movie the writing was a bit lazy by having Lo Lieh simply quit his job and allow Yueh Hua to remain free. "Iron Monkey" got it exactly right by using "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and making the corrupt official the antagonist.

    I have watched this movie twice already and it is on my list to watch again whenever the time seems appropriate. I recommend it to anyone, even if you are not a fan of this genre.