(South Korea 2020)
Original Title: Kol
Directed by Lee Chung-Hyun Produced by Jeong Hul-Sun
Starring: Park Shin-Hye, Jun Jong-Seo, Kim Sung-Ryung, El Lee, Park Ho-San, Oh Jeong-Se, Jo Kyung-Sook, Ryu Kyung-Soo, Lee Dong-Hwi
Reviewing: Netflix UK Release
Genres: Thriller / Drama
Rating - 4.3 / 5
Synopsis: Two people live in different times. Seo-Yeon lives in the present and Young-Sook lives in the past. One phone call connects the two, and their lives are changed irrevocably.
Views: For his first feature film, director and screenplay writer Lee Chung-Hyun does an amazing job in bringing a highly entertaining and incredibly tense film to the screen. In The Call, characters are kept to a minimum which helps in making things a bit more gripping, allowing you to focus on what's going on. With that said, it's hard to talk about The Call without giving too much of its surprises away...
The story focuses on two young women, Seo-Yeon who lives in our present time, and Young-Sook, who lives a decade in the past. The connection is that they both live in the same house, albeit with 10 years of time separating them, but when a mysterious phone call connects them – the girls set out to help each other fix their lives, which leads to some drastic consequences. Having lost her father in a house fire 10 years ago, Seo-Yeon asks Young-Sook to go to their home and prevent the accident from home, something that she manages to pull off and help change Seo-Yeon's life in the present as her mother and father re-appear at home, healthy and well as if nothing ever happened. This is actually executed in a pretty cool way, with some interesting visuals that fix Seo-Yeon's world. But as time passes, Seo-Yeon begins to forget about Young-Sook and what she has done for her – enjoying her family time and repeatedly missing calls from the past. Unbeknownst to Seo-Yeon, the poor Young-Sook isn't getting it so well on her side. Suffering from mental illness, the teenager suffers some major abuse at the hands of her wicked stepmother, a practicing shaman who beats, burns, and ties Young-Sook up while trying her own form of exorcisms, which ultimately, will lead to her death. As she learns about the abuse and murder, Seo-Yeon tries to warn Young-Sook of her stepmother's actions which help save her life – yet at the same time, unleashes a monster!
It goes without saying that what follows in the second half of the film is twist-after-twist, murder after murder, leaving viewers with the same kind of feeling they had while watching the Oscar-winning Parasite, or I Saw The Devil – but I don't want to spoil too much more for you, as the shocks and surprises are gripping. What I will jump to and hope to save you from, is the final twist of Lee Chung-Hyun's story that comes about in the post-credit scene. I wouldn't be lying if I told you to miss it in a bid to leave you feeling like you've watched an incredible film. As with all movies that deal with time travel (so to speak), there are questions on how it's approached or what would really happen. The Call doesn't make a mess of this, for the most part, executing its changes through time in a beautiful and original way – but for most, its post-credit scene screws things over and almost undoes everything before it. Some reviewers have looked into The Call quite a bit deeper than most, expressing how the past is all part of Seo-Yeon's present-self dealing with her own mental health issues. I suppose in some respect there is an element that could be pulled from it, but for me, it's a serial killer-thriller done with a unique approach. It was nice to see lead actress Park Shin Hye get behind two big hits during such a time in our world, both with her role here as Seo-Yeon and as the co-star of the very fun, #Alive. Although I haven't seen her in most of her television outings (which is odd considering the K-Drama is never off in our house), Park Shin-Hye has proven to be a great actress over the past decade and continues to do so in The Call. But it has to be her co-star, Jun Jong-Seo that steals the show as the deranged and incredibly twisted, Young-Sook. Having impressed with her debut role in Lee Chang-Dong's incredible thriller, Burning, Jun takes things to the next level in The Call (in only her second role) creating a character you just love to hate, and in all honesty, wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of.
The blueprint was taken from the original screenplay by Sergio Casci, which was actually made into a film in 2011 named, The Caller, a British/Puerto Rican production directed by English director Matthew Parkhill. I've yet to see what he managed to do with the story then, but having seen The Call a few times now I'd be excited to see what the differences are overall and if the original is as twisted and dark as this is. Of course, Lee Chung-Hyun's adaptation would have been modified to suit its South Korean audience most of all, but I do feel it may be the stronger contender of the two having taken the best from the original source. The film is beautifully shot by Jo Young-Jik, allowing for some incredible visuals that are aided by lots of wonderful lighting, often adding more tension to the scene. The score is handled by Dalpalan, a South Korean composer who covered the music on hits such as R-Point, A Bittersweet Life, The Fox Family, and The Good, The Bad & The Weird, to name but a few. As mentioned, for a first-time director, The Call proves to be a highly entertaining experience as well as a very competent production. It's definitely one to watch on a dark night with the lights down low, and a film I look forward to watching once again in the near future...
Just remember to switch it off after the closing graveyard scene!
Overall: Well made and tense, The Call is a more unique modern thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat!
CALL OF HEROES
(Hong Kong 2016)
Original Title: Wei Cheng
Directed by Benny Chan Produced by Benny Chan, Alvin Lam Action by Sammo Hung
Starring: Sean Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo, Eddie Peng, Wu Jing, Philip Keung, Sammy Hung, Yolanda Yuen Quan, Maggie Jiang, Liu Kai Chi, Xing Yu, Suen Kau Lung, Edward Ma
Reviewing: Cineasia UK DVD Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Action / War
Rating - 4.7 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Blistering, epic-scale action from the director of NEW POLICE STORY and SHAOLIN, with the action director of IP MAN. Call Of Heroes thrills through-out in its tale of skilled martial artists, who take a stand to protect their village against a ruthless army.
In 1914, after the collapse of China's Qing dynasty, Yag Kenan (Sean Lau – Mad Detective) is appointed as guardian to defend the rural village of Pucheng. When alone man enters the village and takes innocent lives, Yang makes the decision that he must be sentenced to death. It emerges that this man is Cao Shaolun (Louis Koo – Flash Point), son of a sadistic warlord, and his army demands the son is released, threatening to bring death and destruction. The village soon becomes split between those who want to stand against the warlord, and those who want to set Cao free in a bid for peace.
As the odds for peace lessen and the pressure mounts for Yang to release the murderous captive, a stirring tale of heroic resistance unfolds as he and a team of skilled villagers make a last stand against the warlord's vicious army. In the face of insurmountable odds, heroes will rise.
Views: Set in 1914 after the collapse of the Qing dynasty, Call Of Heroes tells the tale of heroes standing up to evil when a sadistic man's actions threaten the fate of the whole village. After slaughtered some of the villagers for his own entertainment, Cao is caught by the guardian and law-man of Pucheng, Yang Kenan. Once jailed, it is revealed that Cao is the son of a warlord who wants his son freed. Standing strong for justice, Yang keeps his prisoner but soon finds himself caught between those who want the warlord stopped and those who want to free Cao for the sake of their lives...
Call Of Heroes is quite possibly one of the late Benny Chan's greatest ever films. It boasts an incredible cast with the great Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo, Eddie Peng, Wu Jing, Xing Yu, and Liu Kai Chi who (at the time of writing) unfortunately passed away last week, as well as benefiting from the powerful choreography of the legendary Sammo Hung. It plays like a good old-fashioned kung-fu movie, albeit with a good old-fashioned Spaghetti Western feel, yet still feels fresh in many ways. This is down to Chan's direction along with its high production values, with no lack of detail in the costume department or its incredible riverside village set, completely built from scratch for the production. It's highly impressive and extremely authentic, and no doubt took most of the majority of the film's budget to complete, but with good reason. Most of the film takes place in the village of Pucheng, with each of the main characters making their way to or through it during the course of the story, and Benny Chan certainly makes use of every corner available!
As impressive as Pucheng is, Call Of Heroes benefits most from its fantastic cast. The handsome and brilliant Eddie Peng is the first main character to get introduced, opening the film (after he wakes from a food coma) by beating the hell out of some robbers in a restaurant. I'm a huge fan of Peng's and have long said he is the next big martial-arts-action star of Hong Kong cinema. Eddie plays Ma Feng, sometimes known to the locals as Pigsy or Hero, a traveling swordsman with incredible moves and the one character who brings a little humour to this otherwise, dark tale. Eddie worked under the wing of Sammo in 2012 when he choreographed Tai Chi Zero and its sequel, as well as going up against him a couple of years later on-screen in the incredibly underrated, Rise Of A Legend, where Peng played a much darker Wong Fei Hung. The ever-reliable Lau Ching Wan soon follows as Yang Kenan, guardian to Pucheng, and while he is more often cast as a gun-toting cop or potential love-interest, Lau has gotten to play in some previous martial arts flicks such as All Men Are Brothers: Blood Of The Leopard, and Heroic Trio 2: Executioners for example. Although, much like Chow Yun Fat, he may suit having a gun in his hand more than playing a kung-fu fighter, Lau still manages to deliver some fantastic moves under Sammo's direction and impresses in doing so. This aids his character well as a no-nonsense man of justice, who aims to protect his family and village by all means necessary. I'd love to have seen this made 10 or 20 years ago, with Jackie Chan in the role of Lau and Yuen Biao in Peng's. It would have been an incredibly mature project for them both and quite possibly one of their best, especially with Sammo looking after them. Lau is aided by a host of strong fighters including Sammo's eldest son, the handsome Sammy Hung, and the aforementioned late-actor, Liu Kai Chi. With almost 100 credits to his name, Liu has proven to be a favourite for fans of Hong Kong cinema, starring in films such as Princess Madam, Infernal Affairs 2, New Police Story, SPL, As The Light Goes Out, and pretty much the most of Dante Lam's modern hits since the turn-of-the-century. Here, he plays Liao – one of guardian Yang Kenan's most trusted friends who gets forced into double-crossing at the halfway mark, making for one of the film's most exciting action scenes. In a period where we seem to have lost far too many great cinematic names far-too-soon, I can honestly say that Liu will be a face that I'll miss seeing in future productions.
The brilliant Louis Koo proves to be the scene-stealer in Call Of Heroes, pulling off an incredibly twisted performance as Cao Shaolun, sadistic son of Warlord Cao. No man, woman, or child is safe when he gets going, often putting a bullet in whomever he wants without a second thought. Abusing his namesake and living with the mindset that he is practically invincible, Koo makes the most of his character and leaves a lasting impression for all the right reasons. Louis would go on to star as a family man and cat lover the following year in Benny Chan's family comedy, Meow – which I quite enjoyed. The always impressive Wu Jing stars as Zhang Yi, a servant to Koo's evil Cao, and a force to be reckoned with (as usual). A flashback tells us of a relationship between Wu Jing and Eddie Peng's characters as ex-monks who are now bodyguards for a corrupt official. It's a scene that had shades of Brotherhood Of Blades about it and got me thinking of a prequel based on the two of them that would make for an exciting follow-up. I can but dream I guess! Backing Wu Jing to get Cao out of prison is a literal army of men, one of which is fan favourite Xing Yu from Wrath Of Vajra, and Benny Chan's wonderful Shaolin. Berg Ng, from Election, The Great Magician, and Drug War, joins Jin along with Chinese actor Suen Kau Lung from The Taking Of Tiger Mountain, God Of War, and Dragon Tiger Gate, in a supporting role...
While its extensive cast proves impressive, Call Of Heroes is very much about the action. Benny Chan definitely chose the right man for the job in putting Sammo in charge. In fact, it's something that proves to be so vital to the film that it even gives the legend himself the first opening credit, with Benny Chan (the director) coming up second. It's no secret that Hung has been one of the greatest stars and choreographers of Hong Kong cinema ever, and while age and style have worked their ways on him over the years, he still proves that he is one of the best with his work on Call Of Heroes. While a few moments of wire-work are questionable, Sammo delivers a host of powerhouse fight scenes that allow for some painful-looking stunt work, incredible moves, and gives anyone that can bust-a-move the chance to look good doing it. From Eddie Peng's introductory fight scene in the restaurant to the night-time rescue attempt on Cao, and the deadly attack on the bridge to the grand finale, Sammo directs some intricate stuff that helps make Call Of Heroes a modern-day, martial arts classic! The closing 20 minutes alone is brutally brilliant with Peng taking on Wu Jing in a clash of broad-swords and spear (in a hark back to his own classic film, The Odd Couple), as Lau makes his way for Koo. As a stunning amount of moves are delivered the villagers attack the invading army, while Peng and Jing deliver their final moves on a mountain of old wine jars. As the battle continues, Koo proves even more menacing until Lau delivers a mix of final moves that only a Hong Kong film could do!
With Benny Chan now gone, I can only hope that he got the chance to reap the rewards in knowing what a gem of a film he made with Call Of Heroes. In some ways, this could easily play as a follow-up to Chan's own Shaolin with its similarly set era and range of characters. It's an almost perfect piece and one of my (many) favourite Benny Chan films, and while he had been in the game from the late 1980s, I still feel we never got enough of what the man had to offer, in the grand scheme of things...
Overall: Wonderfully made with powerful martial-arts-action, Call Of Heroes is a brilliant watch with a great cast and more!
DVD Extras: Making Of Documentaries, Trailers, Gallery
CALL TO ARMS
(Hong Kong 1971)
Original Title: Dao Bing Fu
Directed by Shen Chiang Produced by Runme Shaw Action by Yuen Woo Ping, Yuen Cheung Yan
Starring: Tsung Hua, Hsia Fan, Cheung Ban, Chang Yi, Wang Hsieh, Chan Shen, Teresa Ha, Bolo Yeung, Shum Lo, Hsia Hsu, Yuen Woo Ping, Yuen Cheung Yan, Brandy Yuen, Yuen Yat Chor, Danny Chow
Reviewing: YouTube Release
Genres: Kung-Fu / Drama / Historic
Rating - 2.3 / 5
Synopsis: The aggressive and dangerous Chin empire occupies the put-upon Chao kingdom while the hero-filled Wei empire is paralysed by an indecisive ruler.
Views: This early 70s Shaw Brothers film is set during the time of the warring states, a period that you would probably be best knowing much more about before going into Call Of Arms. While not impossible to follow, director Shen Chiang and co-writer Hsu Li Min, certainly don't make it easy as they try to fit such a historic telling into a very short running time. In a nutshell, Call Of Arms tells the story of the Wei people making plans to stop the tyrannical Emperor Chin attacking, who has been busy bringing the neighbouring state of Chao to its knees...
Although it opens with a decent bit of battle and assassination, Call To Arms slows way down for the next 20 minutes as it overloads on lots of political talk and drama. While the character of Zhu Hai seems like he's the main man we should be focused on for the journey, he quickly vanishes – popping in and out for the bigger moments of the film. In fact, with so much going on and a lot of characters coming and going, it's hard to really care about anyone. Thankfully though, and as with most Shaw Brothers kung-fu outings, the film is saved somewhat by the action, courtesy of a young Yuen Woo-Ping and Yuen Cheung Yan. Although Woo-Ping had been staring in bit-parts for Shaw productions since the early 60s, it would be almost a decade later before he would get the chance to dance when he took up the role of action-choreographer. Cheung Yan had gotten a head-start just a few years earlier, with both going on to work on many classic titles for Shaw Studios before branching out to become the legends of Hong Kong cinema that they are today. While it offers nothing spectacular, fans of the Yuen clan will enjoy watching their early work as well as catching glimpses of other Yuen brothers in the background.
The cast of Shaw's regulars all do as typical a job as always, with Cheung Ban playing swordsman Zhu Hai. Although his career in the industry only lasted a good 5 or 6 years, Cheung managed to star in around 18 films including 14 Amazons, The Water Margin, and Cold Blade. Hong Kong movie veteran Tsung Hua plays Prince Shun Ling, and probably stands out as one of the more recognisable faces in the film. Of course, Hua would star in many classic films for Shaw's such as The Killer, 14 Amazons, and Killer Clans, as well as many independent titles like One-Armed Against Nine Killers, 72 Desperate Rebels, and A Massacre Survivor, that would see him reunited with Yuen Cheung Yan as his action choreographer. The beautiful Hsia Fan, who made an impact even with her small filmography, does a great job as the leading lady, and the great Ching Miao stars as the wicked Emperor Chin. With over 200 credits to his name and having been in the business from 1940, Miao delivered many great roles over the course of his 45-year career before passing away in 1989. As mentioned, keep an eye out for the Yuen clan showing up throughout as well as a young Bolo Yeung, who fights alongside the fantastic Wang Hsieh as General Jin Bi, in the final battle!
I've probably seen more of what Shen Chiang has done as a writer, as opposed to his directorial efforts and while Call To Arms is far from his worst, it's certainly not one of his greatest. With that in mind, rumor has it that had a few problems after superstar Chang Yi defected to Golden Harvest (who were making waves as the hot new young studio in town). Originally in the role of Zhu Hai, the Shaw Brothers shelved the film for a year before re-shooting Chang's scenes with Cheung Ban – which would make for a valid reason as to why the character of Zhu wasn't about as much as he should have been. That, or something was missing in the writing after all...
Overall: Far from the best Shaw Brothers picture, Call To Arms still has its moments but is too talky for its own good!
CANTONEN IRON KUNG FU
(Hong Kong 1979)
Original Title: Guangdong Tie Qiao San
(aka) Cantonese Iron Kung Fu; Iron Fist of Kwangtung; Iron Fisted Warrior; The Iron Hand Boxer
Directed by Lee Chiu Produced by Yuen Kam Lun, Lau Cheun Fei Action by Lau Chun Fai, Tsang Chiu Yue
Starring: Leung Kar Yan, Phillip Ko Fei, Wang Chung, Ting Wa Chung, Wang Hsieh, Lau Chun Fai, Lee Chiu, Tsang Chiu Yue, Pang San, Ma Chin Ku
Reviewing: Soulblade/Dragon UK DVD Release
Genres: Traditional Kung-Fu / Drama
Rating - 3.5 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Leung Kar Yan (aka Beardy - “Warriors Two & The Victim”) plays Ah Tung, a coolie who ends up in a brawl with Ah Yu (Lee Chiu) over a misunderstanding. The two become friends but their relationship is cut short when Ah Yu accepts a challenge to fight with several men under the leadership of a ruthless criminal named Black Eagle (Phillip Ko – 2The Loot & Legend Of A Fighter”) who are attempting to bully the townsfolk.
Views: The ever-lovable and hugely impressive Leung Kar Yan heads up this tale of kung-fu and revenge when his friend and boss are killed by a ruthless criminal who has been hired by a corrupt businessman who wants control of the towns supply routes. There's no denying that Cantonen Iron Kung Fu is a simple tale, told in countless amounts of Hong Kong and Taiwanese films from the same era – and most of which have proven to be mildly entertaining with low production values. Thankfully though, this isn't one of them!
Cantonen Iron Kung Fu is a well-made movie, directed by veteran actor and director Lee Chiu. Starting off as an extra in a host of Shaw Brothers titles, Chiu quickly moved into more prominent roles only a couple of years after, starring in over 100 films over the next 30 years. At the same stage, he began working as a fight choreographer for films like A Tooth For A Tooth, Ways Of Kung Fu, and 18 Jade Arhats. The late 1970s saw him make the move to writer and director, which started with Cantonen Iron Kung Fu. From here, Lee would go on to direct over 50 movies from here such as Chin Kar Lok's Martial Arts Master Wong Fei Hung and Little Hero On The Run, Kung Fu From Beyond The Grave with Billy Chong, Full Metal Ninja, the Street Kids series, and Mission Of Condor with Moon Lee – as well as many more. For his first film as director, it's obvious that Lee Chiu wanted to impress and does so in pulling off a clean production with a decent cast and great kung-fu action.
I can only imagine that Lee was keeping a close eye on the action as he directed, but the choreography for Cantonen Iron Kung Fu was left to choreographers Wynn Lau Chun Fai and Tsang Chiu Yue. An actor of over 130 films (including a role here), Lau honed his skills while starring in an incredible amount of Shaw Brothers films as well as the classic Snake In The Eagles Shadow, and Tsui Hark's Butterfly Murders before this. The turn-of-the-century would see him slide into the director's chair with films like My Wife's Bodyguard, Raping Triad, and Muay Thai Girls to name but a few, although I haven't seen any of these to comment. With only two credits to his name, it's likely that Tsang was more of an assistant to Lau on this project, as well as playing a role. Between them, they deliver a hefty amount of kung-fu fighting over the course of the story but definitely save the best for last when Leung Kar Yan and Phillip Ko get to go fist-to-toe in an incredible showdown – one of their many team-ups during their career.
While hardly an A-list cast, Cantonen Iron Kung Fu still carries many recognisable faces throughout, most of which deliver decent performances and moves when it comes to the action. Of course, you can never go wrong with having the amazing Leung Kar Yan star in your film – a legendary star who is one of the best on-screen fighters (among many) that I've ever seen. This is ironic in itself since Leung has never had any formal training in kung-fu – something he himself has mentioned in many interviews – but he has an amazing knack for picking up and replicating moves that make him look like a master. Starting in the mid-1970s with a decent role in Shaolin Martial Arts for Shaw Brothers, Leung completed a few more titles for the studio before moving into independent productions like Five Kung Fu Daredevils, The Iron Monkey, Thundering Mantis, and My Life's On The Line, before striking up a solid relationship with the legendary Sammo Hung that kicked off with the fantastic Enter The Fat Dragon, and his solid performance in Warriors Two. With over 150 titles to his name, and no sign of slowing down (thankfully), Leung Kar Yan has gone on to kick-ass in many amazing titles, as well as work behind the camera with directorial efforts such as Profile In Anger, My Hero, Bogus Cops, and even helping out on Tiger Cage 2 and Mr. Nice Guy.
The prolific Phillip Ko stars as Black Eagle, the big baddie of the show that really doesn't get to show his skills until the last 25 minutes (which are also filled with fight action). With a strong 250 titles to his name, many of which he also directed, Ko never failed to impress with his moves and acting – and more so in films of this period and style. It was a crying shame how his career started to crash fast in the mid-1990s, and a major loss when he passed in March of 2017. Veteran actor Wang Hsieh stars as Leung's master, with Wang Chung, Ting Wa Chung, Ching Kuo Chung, and Pang San rounding off things as his friends. Helping Ko in the bad corner is popular villain of that era, Ma Chin Ku, noticeable from a number of classic titles such as One-Armed Boxer Vs. The Flying Guillotine, Militant Eagle, Ninja In The Dragons Den, and A Fistful Of Talons. Ma would also star briefly in No Retreat, No Surrender 2 as well as serve as an assistant fight-choreographer on the Ng See Yuen production.
While it may slip under the radar of many new fans to Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema, Cantonen Iron Kung Fu may not be considered a true classic of the kung-fu world, but it proves to be a well-made movie that most definitely entertains, closing with an amazing final battle between two of the jaded screen's finest cinematic fighters!
Overall: Packed with great kung-fu and a solid cast, Cantonen Iron Kung Fu is worth a watch with a fantastic final showdown between Leung Kar Yan and Phillip Ko!
DVD Extras: Trailers
CARRY ON PICKPOCKET
(Hong Kong 1982)
Original Title: Tai Fong Siu Sau
Directed by Sammo Hung Produced by Frankie Chan, Guy Lai Action by Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Lam Ching Ying, Billy Chan, Sammo Hung Stunt Team
Starring: Sammo Hung, Frankie Chan, Deannie Yip, Richard Ng, Pang Sau Ha, Lau Hak Suen, Peter Chan Lung, Dick Wei, Jamie Luk, Nat Chan, Walter Tso, Billy Chan, Wellson Chin, James Tien, Peter Chan, Yuen Biao, Wu Ma
Reviewing: Megastar HK DVD Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Action / Comedy
Rating - 4 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Two down-at-heel petty crooks, nicknamed Rice Barrel (Sammo Hung) and Chimney (Frankie Chan), are students of the Fagin-esque Master Kim. When the pair become involved in the matter of some stolen diamonds, they find themselves trapped between a local gang boss and the police. With no-where to run, Rice Barrel and Chimney must use their wits and physical skills to save the day.
Views: It's been quite some time since I last sat down to this fantastically fun Sammo Hung flick, but I do remember watching Carry On Pickpocket at least once a week when I first got it. Opening with a brief training scene, although not in the kung-fu sense, we see pickpockets Rice Barrel (Sammo Hung) and Chimney (Frankie Chan) practicing their moves with some impressive slide-of-hand techniques. The pair have been taught under the wing of old master Kim (Lau Hak Suen), and his buxom daughter Ann – played by Didi Pang Sau Ha in her only role before getting hitched to the one-and-only Yuen Biao. The 10-minute mark takes the pair to a nightclub where Sammo, dressed in a shiny-white Mickey Mouse sweater, tries to impress the wonderful Deannie Yip, when she catches his eye – a relationship that would be revisited many years later when they got together again in Owl Vs Bumbo, and once more in Dragons Forever. Getting lost in his words, the burly hero resorts to entertaining her by recreating the classic Charlie Chaplin scene when he makes his bread rolls dance on the end of his forks. It clearly works, and soon the couple are on the dance floor enjoying each other's company. In the same scene, we are treated to a hilarious cameo by the great Chin Yuet Sang – who can't deliver a bowl of soup to Hung's table without spilling it as he keeps breaking into dance. As the beat picks up and Frankie exchanges a few words with some disco thugs, the first fight of the film kicks off allowing both stars to bust some moves – with Sammo impressing with some impactful hits as he helps his brother in trouble!
The action soon starts to flow as a police stakeout in a local shopping mall gets out of hand. This is all thanks to the brilliant and hilarious Richard Ng, a clumsy cop who is under the leadership of the great James Tien. It's a role that mirrors that of his performance in the Lucky Stars films, although on the right side of the law this time and never tires, as he tries to do his job over the course of the story. While Sammo explores his relationship with Yip, he soon finds out that she is actually a cop (or so we are led to believe), and promises to stop his pickpocketing ways in exchange for her love. On the other side of town, Frankie has been summoned by a gang boss who wants him to sell them all the ID cards he steals. Kindly rejecting the offer, Chan attempts to escape in a great moment that sees him end up with the wallets from all the gangsters around him. And although he is quickly caught, it earns him a bit of respect as well as a few extra quid. Coerced into the deal after Master Kim takes a beating, the pair soon find themselves working overtime for the gangsters all while trying to avoid getting caught by nosey cop, Richard Ng who is determined to bring them down. The pair hide the ID cards in amongst some desserts and soon deliver their order to the gang at a rubbish dump. This leads to a brief but impactful fight that gets the team of pickpockets off the hook in working for the gangster...
To celebrate their win, the pair head out for the night where Sammo finds his new love dancing with another man. That man is Chou Meng Sheng, a big-time gangster played by the brilliant Peter Chan Lung. After a hilarious break-up and make-up scene, Yip reveals that she is working on an undercover case that involves some stolen diamonds and asks for Sammo's help in retrieving them – to which he agrees. After tracking down the gangster, they manage to steal the loot in a scene that leaves Sammo and Chan Lung arrested by Ng, with Chan escaping on his motorbike. On returning home, Hung and Chan find their home ransacked, with Chan Lung and his men waiting for them. This kicks off a closing 25 minutes of hard action starting with a neat fight inside their home and followed by a great chase scene. With the diamonds now missing, they soon learn that they were double-crossed by their own master and, along with Ann, conduct a plan to make him talk. It's actually quite a brutal scene that involves her being tossed down an elevator shaft (in front of her father) by a large white man wearing stockings on his head. Only when Kim himself is dangled over the edge, does he opt to reveal where he has hidden the diamonds – with viewers finally being able to let out a sigh of relief as Ann shouts from below, where she lies comfortably in a large net! Delivering the diamonds to inspector Yip, who quickly swaps the box of jewels with a fake set out-of-sight, the trio are set up to make a final deal with the gangsters on a large, old ship off the bay. With only the fake jewels on hand, the three pickpockets soon realise that they are out of options and in a fight for their lives against the formidable Dick Wei, Chan Lung, Jamie Luk, Ka Lee, and others. It's a brutally choreographed and lengthy closing fight that sees blood spray as hatchets are lodged in bodies, and Frankie Chan sticks a long spike in a man's groin. It's an underrated fight scene of Sammo's filmography in many respects and, for me, actually comes across as a much more violent version of the closing warehouse battle in Winners & Sinners. It's also quite a dark finale to an otherwise comedy-based-action film, but something that went on to become a trademark of Hung's future works – as well as a clear inspiration to Frankie Chan who's directorial efforts would often follow the same pattern of comedy and violence.
It goes without saying that a legend such as Sammo Hung, needs no introduction but I must insist that fans of his modern classics check this out if they haven't already done so. Apart from starring in a lead role, the big man also directs the film and helps choreograph the fantastic action scenes. The irrepressible Frankie Chan, of whom I am a big fan (as mentioned in previous reviews), was just hot-off the set of the amazing Prodigal Son where he starred alongside Sammo and Yuen Biao in an impressive role as the antagonist of the story. Although he had been in the industry a good decade beforehand as a successful composer, Frankie made the move to acting in 1980 in the Jackie Chan produced film, Read Lips, an action-comedy directed by Richard Yeung Kuen., After Prodigal Son followed a year later, Frankie would up his game once more by producing, starring, and composing the music in this before going on to direct his first feature, The Perfect Match, the same year. The wonderful Lau Hak Suen plays Master Kim, a Fagin-like character although on a much more comedic level. With a spectacular 530+ titles to his name, Lau would be most recognisable to fans of Hong Kong cinema as Jackie's old Lieutenant in Project A, which would also prove to be his final role before his death at the start of 1983. The rest of the cast is packed with many great names from the aforementioned love-interest of Deannie Yip to the comedy antics of Richard Ng, Carry On Pickpocket is loaded with cameos from all directions with the likes of Nat Chan, Peter Chan, Wu Ma, Walter Tso, Mai Kei, Paul Wong, Johnny Cheung Wa, Billy Chan, Yuen Biao, and many more.
While the fight-action isn't as often as one would hope in Carry On Pickpocket, there's still enough to keep fans happy. Powerful and well-choreographed, this is looked after by Sammo himself, Lam Ching Ying, Billy Chan, and the amazing Yuen Biao – who would also appear as a stuntman and double for many actors throughout, and most notably for Dick Wei's trickier kicks and moves in the end battle. Between them, the choreographers crank things up with some strong martial arts that make an impact. Although most of these are short until the closing fight sequences, each action scene totally delivers as both stars get to show their moves. Of course, being Sammo's show, he certainly gets to shine a bit more than Frankie does – and ultimately, is the better martial artist overall. The final showdown between him and Dick Wei is just brilliant, and why it doesn't come up on more people's radars as one of his finest fight scenes, is beyond me. It was certainly an interesting project for them to follow-up with after the incredible work on Prodigal Son, where both Yuen Biao and Lam Chin Ying were as much the stars as Hung and Chan were – but having their talents behind the camera is just as noticeable, and a welcome addition regardless. I can only wonder, had Jackie Chan not been in the states making Cannonball Run after The Big Brawl, would he possibly have been cast in the character of Chimney instead of Frankie?
Carry On Pickpocket is a lot of fun! It oozes a Winners And Sinners type feel about it (although pre-dating it by a year) and is packed with a great cast, plenty of hilarious moments, and some great fight action. While often missed by later fans of Hung's and Hong Kong cinema respectively, this 1982 production is well worth the watch for many great reasons. Although he had appeared in smaller roles in many modern-day set films before this, such as bit-parts in A Man From Hong Kong, Double Crossers, and Game Of Death, for example, Carry On Pickpocket would be Sammo Hung's first full non-traditional kung-fu production – squeezed in between Prodigal Son, and The Dead & The Deadly. Of course, this would launch a whole new style of film-making for Sammo with the likes of Winners & Sinners, Project A, and Wheels On Meals soon following, with a solid decade of hits from there on in. Here's hoping we get a gorgeously restored Blu-ray release in the near future, that introduces Carry On Pickpocket to a new audience and lets fans see this Sammo Hung classic as it should be!
Overall: A brilliant martial-arts-action-comedy that pre-dates Winners & Sinners by a year and offers just as much entertainment!
DVD Extras: Trailers