4 July 2003 | BrianDanaCamp
Average kung fu film: long on fights, but low on star power
END OF THE WICKED TIGERS (1977) is an average kung fu film with an adequate story and several good fights,but lacks any strong characters of note and is not terribly well edited. The simple storyline lends itself well to the usual array of kung fu battles between an oppressive gang and the two heroes who stand up to it. In a remote town in turn-of-the-early 20th century China, a new police captain, Ling (Lee Ka Ting), and his men confront a town boss, Chang (Han Ying Chieh), whose son (Wilson Tong) and henchmen have had the run of the town to themselves for years. Tong and his buddies, who include Sammo Hung, are seen brutally beating and killing, in two separate incidents, unarmed innocent men who don't have a chance against them. Only one townsman, Ma San (Charles Heung), is willing to stand up against the Changs, but any action he takes against them puts his brother (Eddy Ko), who works for Chang, in danger. Ma San is soon framed by the Changs in the poison deaths of three children and he has no choice but to take the law into his own hands. Eventually, Ma San and Ling take on the Chang gang in a pitched final battle.
There is one thoroughly gratuitous sex scene, involving ample nudity, that's the most explicit such scene I've ever seen in a kung fu film. It involves two minor characters, the gang member who did the actual poisoning and a prostitute at the local brothel, and seems to have been added to pad out the running time of the film (already a short 83 minutes).
What the film really needed were the missing sections of the final battle. As Ma San and Captain Ling are fighting Chang and Tong, Sammo Hung and the other henchmen are beating hell out of the other policemen. That's the last we see of Sammo and company. So the final action is never satisfactorily concluded.
The two leads, Charles Heung and Lee Ka Ting, are competent, although they're not the most familiar of kung fu performers. (Heung may be known to Hong Kong film fans largely for his portrayal of "God of Guns" in the GOD OF GAMBLERS films). But they do face three formidable villains in Han Ying Chieh, Wilson Tong and Sammo Hung. (Han and Hung both worked on the fight choreography.) The photography is nearly all on outdoors Taiwan locations and is generally pretty crisp. The fights are largely well staged, except when they're completely forgotten about, as in the case of Sammo and co. at the end.