27 July 2008 | BrianDanaCamp
GANG MASTER Unsung star Austin Wai elevates average kung fu movie
GANG MASTER (1982) is a fairly straightforward late period Shaw Bros. kung fu movie with a good cast and fast pace, but a convoluted plot. It has to do with a young clan member, Zhong Yuan, who is promoted to chief of the Dragon Gang after his adoptive father dies, only to be expelled when a letter arrives revealing him to be of Mongol birth, an awkward bit of news at a time when the Dragon Gang is actively fighting Mongol occupiers. In fact, Zhong soon learns that the Mongol general leading the anti-rebel campaign is actually his real father. Still, he persists in trying to get back into the good graces of the clan, eventually helping to ferret out a traitor in their midst. The plot is never terribly involving nor are the characters very interesting, but the fights are good and come at a fairly regular clip.
The real revelation here is Hui Tien-sze (aka Austin Wai), the actor who plays Zhong Yuan. He happens to be the older brother of female Shaw Star Kara Hui Ying Hung (MY YOUNG AUNTIE, CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS) and the family resemblance is quite strong. He's quite an acrobat and does all his own stunts. He's lean and agile and could easily have carved a niche for himself in the independent kung fu films being made outside the Shaw studio at the time, mostly in Taiwan, the kind that starred cheerful young types like Lee Yi Min and Cliff Lok. I've seen many of the films listed in Hui's filmography, but this is the first leading role I've seen him in and the first time I've become aware of him. It's too bad he didn't have more of a starring career. He's got a number of recent credits, so he's still quite active in the Hong Kong film industry.
Also in GANG MASTER are four other great kung fu stars: Chen Kuan Tai (BOXER FROM SHANTUNG, BLOOD BROTHERS) as the Mongol general; Bruce Leung (BROKEN OATH, KUNG FU HUSTLE) as a loyal clan member (and the only Shaw film I've seen this underrated fighting star in); Jason Pai Piao (SHAOLIN INTRUDERS, THE LADY ASSASSIN) as another clan member; and Shaw stalwart Ku Feng as a clan elder.