4 September 2004 | BrianDanaCamp
BRUCE AND SHAOLIN KUNG FU Chinese hero takes on the Japanese
Despite the title, there's no Bruce (Lee or otherwise) in BRUCE AND SHAOLIN KUNG FU, although there are elements of Shaolin in the kung fu taught the hero by his master early in the film. Set in the era of Japan's occupation of China and Korea (a few years before Bruce Lee was actually born), the film offers Chinese heroes fighting Japanese villains (and their Chinese henchmen) in both China and Korea. Bruce Le (real name: Wong Kin Lung) plays Ching Ling, a Chinese kung fu expert who fights back when the Japanese close the martial arts gyms in Shanghai. After he defeats the Japanese general's chief lieutenant in battle, things get too hot in Shanghai so Ching flees to Korea to join his master's old classmate at a taekwondo school. His master back in China (played by Chen Sing), however, is left to face the brunt of a retaliatory attack by the Japanese general's five champions (two of them played by regular kung fu heavies Chiang Tao and Yang Sze, aka Bolo Yeung, from ENTER THE DRAGON). In a sequence shot on mountain locations, Chen puts up quite a fight. Normally one of the most dependable villains in kung fu films, Chen Sing rarely played heroic roles, but when he did he was quite extraordinary, as he is here.
In Korea, Ching Ling hooks up with revolutionaries and trains with the Korean master's daughter (played by Gam Ching Lan), who practices taekwondo. The Japanese team follows Ching Ling to Korea, leading to many more fights, in most of which the female fighter joins him. I don't know what else Gam Ching Lan has done, but she's quite impressive here.
There is some swordplay and trampoline work, as well as numerous high leaps achieved by reverse-printed long drops. There is a little too much slow motion in the final series of fights. Aside from that, the kung fu is mostly hand-to-hand (and feet) in different styles, all very well staged and shot. Everything's on location in cold weather and we can sometimes see the breath from the actors' mouths, even indoors!
This is sometimes listed as a Korean film, and I'm guessing that all or most of the film was shot in Korea, although I'm also guessing that it was a co-production with Taiwan or Hong Kong. (Some scenes may have been shot in Taiwan.) Steve James is cited above in the cast list, but is nowhere to be seen in the 90-minute tape released by Best Film & Video that was screened for this review. BRUCE AND SHAOLIN KUNG FU is not a terribly deep film, but it has a plot and it moves well, offering virtually nonstop fighting, so it remains above average for a film with "Bruce" in the title.