27 May 2001 | BrianDanaCamp
Comic kung fu with identical twins
INSTANT FUNG FU MAN (1978) is a minor kung fu film that deserves attention for two reasons. It's an early work of action direction/fight choreography by Yuen Wo Ping (better known for THE MATRIX and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON), who shares credit here with his brother Yuen Cheung Yan (who recently did the fights for CHARLIE'S ANGELS). It also features a pair of fights between the two greatest high-kickers in the genre, Hwang Jang Lee and John Liu, two pairs of the longest legs in kung fu.
The plot focuses on identical twins Shao Fu and Shao Hu, one of whom--Shao Fu--is a kung fu expert, but a bandit, while the other--Shao Hu--is a Shaolin monk, but a completely undisciplined slacker. The focus is more on Shao Hu who gets to leave Shaolin Temple after defeating the Shaolin Wooden Men with a clever trick that makes for one of the funniest bits in the film.
The emphasis is on comedy as Shao Hu is constantly mistaken for his wanted brother and must use his wits to either win fights or get out of them. The plot gets convoluted as more and more new characters get introduced, including Ah Sam (Yuen Yat Chor, one of the Yuen brothers), who begs to be Shao Hu's student, even though he himself is far superior in kung fu, and a young lady who becomes Ah Sam's wife after he beats her in a match.
There are some trademark Yuen Wo Ping kung fu sight gags, including a fight with a ladder, and comic bits involving a merchant trying to marry off his fat daughter to Shao Hu after hiring him to fight off bandits. However, the comedy starts to get tiresome and the film perks up only in the last 20 minutes when Hwang Jang Lee and John Liu re-enter (after short bits early on) and proceed to kick the crap out of each other. These are two of the best kickers in kung fu films and their two fights are enormously exciting. In a fight with Shao Fu, the kung fu twin, Hwang does his famous triple kick maneuver without wires or trampoline.
Yip Fei Yang plays the two twins and is actually a pretty good actor and fighter. Unfortunately, the emphasis is on the comic brother, so we don't get to see the actor do enough kung fu. The music score consists of cues from HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962) and `Roots' (1977), with an inexplicable refrain of the `Dixie' anthem throughout.