30 March 2006 | ChungMo
Aimless kung fu story but some good fights
Kung fu movies are not generally known for their story lines. Usually the story serves as a good reason for the characters to get into a set of exhilarating encounters. If we didn't get a good fight then it's just another melodrama and we can find those anywhere. But what happens when the story isn't even there? This is a very good example. Unlike most Shaw films and directed by a team consisting of one of the supporting martial artist/actors who apparently never directed again and a director from outside the Shaw studios, one can only guess at how the film ended up this way.
The setting is the usual Manchus versus Hans, nothing new here. Yue Wong plays his stock conman rascal and Lo Meng plays his stock naive good guy. Yu Wong does not play a martial artist unlike his other roles. Wang Lung Wei fills the powerful bad guy role although he starts out as a resistance fighter. The movie starts out very quickly paced and very broadly acted. The filming style is well done but unlike other films out of the Shaw studio. It's rather silly but enjoyable for the first 45 minutes when the film looses it's footing and grinds to a halt with an extended "comedy" sequence. It picks up with an inexplicable but well-done Lion dance fight and quickly turns sour as the film's light tone is replaced with death and mayhem.
The only saving factor at this point would be the fight scenes. While the expertise and grace of the actors are superb, once again the film deviates from the usual Shaw studio style. The fights suffer from a "one-two-three, one-two-three" choreography that you usually see from other HK studios of the time. It's not a problem at first but as the film starts to drag on it gets tiresome. There are some terrible examples of sped up film that clown up what were intended to be serious fights. And there's a serious fight scene with a weapon so absurd your head will spin. What was in the directors' heads?
While the production standards are very good, the disjointed story makes this one, "Not Recommended".