11 January 2016 | ckormos1
A movie that breaks the mold of a very predictable genre
The key to a great movie is to give the audience exactly what they want but not in the way they expected it. Martial arts movies typically succeed in the first part of that requirement but this movie succeeds in both parts. Lo Lieh says "My name is Chen Wu Hai" and women scream and the camera operator can't hold the camera steady and Wilson Tong dies in the first scene. Lo Lieh then kills four men armed with weapons. There is a meeting at Shaolin and it seems only Carter Wong can stop this homicidal maniac, once he gets done delivering his speech. But, why so serious? Two bozos with few kung fu skills and fewer brain cells try to capture Lo for the reward and he explains he only kills bad guys and gives them a mission. Suddenly it's time for a twist. Robbers attack customers at a small tea house and Chang Yi challenges them. Right in front of Lo, he states his name is the same and proceeds to prove it with his kung fu skills. Lo then challenges him and they fight to a retreat leaving Lo troublesomely involved with a needy woman. Chang Yi returns that night with his gang. Time for another twist, troublesome woman is the Poison Queen and Lo has been set up since the tea house. His only hope is that she might double cross Chang Yi too. Instead his two bozo friends appear out of nowhere and with a mere club to the back of the head they render both Chang Yi and Poison Queen comatose. The viewer is still way behind what is really going on here. Though Lo now has the Smiling Killer and Poison Queen captured he makes a deal with them to take him in as their prisoner. They deliver Lo to Carter Wong, who has finally stopped talking and has taken off his shirt to show off some martial arts moves. Smiling Killer and Poison Queen discuss whether to quit while they are ahead or to figure out what Lo is really up to doing. Lo does escape though it is not quite clear how and that is literally because it was a night scene with poor VHS resolution. Poison Queen then does as expected of troublesome women and she double crosses Smiling Killer. Lo arrives just in time to fight and kill Smiling Killer then gives the audience more to think about when he turns around and turns himself back in. Cliff Lok intercedes and rescues Lo and Lo must explain to him that this was not part of his plan and thanks anyway. Cliff Lok ends up escaping while poisoned and Lo is back in custody, willingly. He has hinted everything seems to be leading toward a martial arts contest. Carter sends Lo to the water dungeon, exactly where Lo wants to be sent. There is a flashback to the history of the water dungeon and Carter's brother. Carter imprisoned his brother, Lo's master, here and Lo has gone through all this to end up here to find him. Cliff Lok is tossed in with him. Outside, the tournament begins and Carter seems about to accomplish his plan. Lo finds his master but the plot twists yet again. It all leads to the final fight – Lo Lieh versus Carter Wong – which was one of the few predictable things about this movie.
This is certainly one of the smartest martial arts movies I have ever watched and I have watched thousands. What a coincidence also that I watched it immediately after watching perhaps the dumbest martial arts movies I ever watched, "Shaolin Rebel". I needed that coincidence. It is a well-paced, fun movie, totally different than 90% of the films in this genre. What can I complain about? The fights just were not special. They were good but with Lo Lieh, Chang Yi, Carter Wong, and Cliff Lok – we have some real skills here – it could have been better.
Ocean shores VHS to computer file with all the typical complaints but otherwise there would be nothing here to see at all.