Original Title: Yi Shen Shi Dan (aka) Gallant Boxer
Directed by Yang Su Produced by Shen Yu Fang Action by Chang Yi Kuai Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Lung Fei, Paul Chang Chung, Cho Kin, Wong Wing Sang, Chen Hung Leih, Hsieh Hsing, Shan Mao, Tsia Hung, Su Chen Ping, Blacky Ko, Jack Long, Yi Yuen Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Thriller / Martial Arts / Action / Drama
Rating - 3.7 / 5
Synopsis: Jimmy Wang Yu makes for a 'Gallant Boxer' in this high-flying martial arts anthology film that sees him play three different characters across as many time periods. Each role sees the hero employ his hardened fighting skills to the max, delivering plenty of martial arts action and excitement along the way. (116 Mins)
Views: In one of Wang Yu's more original projects (and especially of this time period), The Gallant is an anthology of sorts that delivers 3 short films over different time periods focused on the theme of vengeance and redemption gained through sacrifice. For an early 70s production, it was incredibly different and somewhat ahead-of-its-time in a decade where both Taiwan and Hong Kong were dishing out traditional kung-fu movies by the hundreds...
The first episode is called The Stranger, a story set in the modern-day about a woman who escapes from her abusive and brutal nightclub boss. Hiding out in Wang Yu's apartment as the boss's men search for her, our hero takes a liking to the singer and manages to get a sneaky snog as a 'thank-you' before she goes on her way. It doesn't take long for her to get captured after leaving his home and after a failed rescue attempt, Wang learns that she has been taken back to the nightclub she has been trying to escape. Without a second thought, the one-man-army heads to her place of work in an attempt to free her once and for all which leads to Wang Yu taking on the big boss and about 30 men in a brutal showdown. Severely wounded but coming out as the winner, the young lovers exit the nightclub which sees poor Jimmy get gunned down on the doorstep, closing the first chapter of The Gallant. Although the story may have suited a longer running time in allowing the pair to build up a relationship, The Stranger still proves to be an enjoyable segment to get things rolling. The big boss of the nightclub is played by Yi Yuan, a veteran actor of over 200 titles and someone that has shared the screen with Wang Yu on a number of occasions. His right-hand man is Tsai Wang, a regular face of kung-fu cinema and Jimmy Wang Yu movies noticeable for his roles in films like One-Armed Boxer, Knight Errant, Beach Of The War Gods, Eight Strikes Of The Wild Cat, and a host of Shaw Brothers titles. I must say, the nightclub fight is pretty damn impressive and quite brutal with Wang Yu in top form as he beats the hell out of everyone – and often in lengthy, unedited shots. It reminded me quite a bit of Sonny Chiba's Streetfighter character with Jimmy giving a similar vibe while in action, and definitely stands as one of his most exciting battles!
The second episode is The Prodigal Son, set in the late 800's and quite a change in contrast to the opening segment. Wang Yu plays a grieving son who blames himself for his parent's death. Before he began living as a hermit, he buried the cursed family treasures – a large fortune that was known to be in the family's possession by everyone across the land. Although his sister still lives at home and often brings him food, Wang Yu refuses to take it or return from his mountain home where he seeks atonement for his loss. As more and more bandits arrive to steal the treasure, Wang soon learns that his sister has been killed by the outlaws and sets out on a path of vengeance. It results in a violent fight at his parent's graves, that sees Wang Yu as the hero but broken in knowing what he has lost overall. The second episode of The Gallant gives Wang Yu the chance to flex his acting chops (as opposed to dishing them out) in a role that takes him back to his One-Armed Swordsman days, and melodramatic roles at Shaw Brothers. It's a much more serious affair than the last, but he still gets to bust a move a few times during the story – albeit in a more violent and realistic fashion. The big boss in this segment is played by popular Hong Kong star, Paul Chang Chung. Starting in the industry in 1939 as a child actor, Paul would go on to star in titles such as Fantasy Mission Force, Dragon Lord, Millionaires Express, My Lucky Stars, and much more – as well as directing a handful of flicks in the mid-1970s. Another of the bandits is Shan Mao, another Wang Yu film regular and popular villain of the time. A bit more polished to some degree than The Stranger, this second episode is a much more mature piece.
Episode 3 is called The Revenger, set in China around the 1930s. This time, Wang Yu plays an ex-con man who returns to town with a major vengeance against his brother who had not only stole money from him but also his woman. Beginning in a restaurant, The Revenger wastes no time in getting the action started as Wang Yu starts asking questions that some men just don't want to hear. As he gets closer to finding his brother, death quickly follows as Wang Yu finds attackers coming from all directions. After hearing of his return, Wang's old girlfriend tries poisoning the brother but fails, landing her in big trouble and forced to write a letter to her old lover that will lead him to a trap. Faced against his brother and a host of gangsters, Wang must fight to the death in order to exact revenge and teach his wicked sibling a lesson! The Revenger definitely plays as the most action-packed segment of the three, closing The Gallant like the end battle of any kung-fu movie. His brother is played by popular kung-fu star Chen Hung Lieh, an actor who shared the screen with Wang in films like Temple Of The Red Lotus, The Twin Swords, Magnificent Trio, and many more. He also starred in many other great titles in his career such as 8 Dragon Swords, Super Dragon, Fire Dragon, and A Life Of Ninja, among many others. A young Blacky Ko pops up as a restaurant waiter, while many other recognisable faces from 70s Taiwanese kung-fu cinema also appear...
I quite liked The Gallant. While it has its flaws, the film is perfect in defining Wang Yu as the trilogy of characters he most often plays such as the cool, suave, kick-ass hero from The Stranger, the dramatic underdog who doesn't give up in the Prodigal Son, and the tough, no-nonsense hard-man who lets no-one get in his way from The Revenger. I've always been a huge fan of Jimmy Wang Yu since catching him over 30 years ago in films like The Chinese Boxer, Killer Meteors, and One-Armed Boxer, and find it such a shame that his complete filmography has not been made available to fans in a restored fashion. Director Yang Su does a fine job in putting The Gallant together, a project that came up halfway through his decade-long career in the industry, although I must admit I haven't seen anything else from him. Kung-fu actor and martial arts director, Chang Yi Kuai, handles the action across the board and delivers some violent and brutal fight scenes. Of course, Jimmy Wang Yu will never be known as the most graceful of on-screen fighters, but he always puts on a show and usually impresses. Having worked with Wang on Blood Of The Dragon (aka The Desperate Chase), Chang honed his skills on a number of Shaw's productions and starred in many fun titles including Beach Of The War Gods, Showdown At Cotton Mill, A Massacre Survivor, Ninja Hunter with Alexander Lo Rei, and much more!
Overall: Like watching 3 Jimmy Wang Yu movies at once, The Gallant is worth a watch for fans of the star or that of old-school kung-fu films!
(Hong Kong 2010)
Original Title: Da Lui Toi (aka) Fists Of Dignity; Tiger & Dragon Reloaded; Kung Fu Masters
Directed by Derek Kwok, Clement Cheng Produced by Gordon Lam, Andy Lau Action by Yuen Tak Starring: Wong Yau Nam, Chen Kuan Tai, Bruce Leung Siu Lung, Teddy Robin Kwan, Siu Yam Yam (Siu Yin Yin), Lo Meng, Michael Chan Wai Man Reviewing: MVM UK DVD Release Genres: Martial Arts / Comedy / Drama
Rating - 4.3 / 5
DVD Synopsis: When legendary Kung-fu master, Law Sun (Teddy Robin), awakes from a 30 year coma he discovers that his once celebrated martial arts school has become a teahouse. With the aid of his now middle-aged apprentices, Dragon (Chan Koo Tai) and Tiger (Leung Siu Lung) and new-kid-on-the-block, geeky office worker, Cheung (Wong You Nam), Master Law trains his motley crew of gallant fighters for the battle of their lives – one they must win to safeguard all their futures. (93 Mins)
Views: There was a lot of hype behind Derek Kowk and Clement Cheng's martial arts comedy on its release back in 2010 that, thankfully, lived up to it providing a hugely entertaining flick with a lot of familiar faces and some great kung-fu that saw it win the award for Best Film at the 30th Hong Kong Film Awards! Teddy Robin Kwan plays Master Law, a man who has been in a coma for the last 30 years and finds out that his martial arts school has now become a teahouse. Harassed by some local thugs who have connections to a new martial arts club, The Gate Of Law find themselves challenged with the possibility of losing the school. So with a little inspiration from geeky real estate agent, Leung King Cheung, and support from his (now) middle-aged students, Dragon and Tiger, the totally disorientated Master Law sets about restoring his schools name and training his followers for the biggest fight of their lives!
Quite simply put, Gallants is an absolute joy to watch! It stars a host of Shaw Brothers legends and proved to be the welcome return for the wonderful Teddy Robin Kwan, who had been void of any acting roles for a good 13 years until this. Teddy steals every scene he's in, oozing some great comedic charm with his witty dialogue and cheeky charm – a role that went on to win him the Best Supporting Actor role at the 30th Hong Kong Film Awards. The incredible Bruce Leung Siu Lung and Chen Kuan Tai play his aged students, Dragon and Tiger, both living for their master and dealing with many of their own issues, including getting old. These guys were an incredible casting choice, with both giving amazing performances throughout, both in terms of comedy and emotion drama. Of course, both Chen and Leung get to fight a number of times during the film with each of them showing that there's still a lot of life left in the old dogs yet. The handsome Wong Yau Nam plays wimpy sales agent, Leung King Cheung, the catalyst of the story who finally learns to stand up for himself as well as understanding his mistakes. I first saw Wong as the super cute Sam in the fun Anna In Kung Fu Land, and have always enjoyed seeing him pop up here and there since. This would also see the return of a co-star from that very same film and legend of the kung-fu screen, Lo Meng – here credited as Turbo Law. Much like his co-star Chen Kuan Tai, Lo Meng has been keeping busy since his debut way back in the late 70s, where he played a student of Shaolin alongside Jet Li in Shaolin Temple. After that he joined the Shaw Brothers studios and appeared in many memorable roles, particularly that of the Toad in The Five Venoms. It was great getting to see him tussle with Chen and Bruce, delivering some pretty sweet moves a few times in the film. The wonderful Siu Yam Yam (Susan Shaw Yin Yin) delivers a wonderful performance as Doctor Fun, love interest to Teddy's Master Law and his carer for all these years. Having made a splash with her role in 1975s, A Haunted House, Yam Yam has went on to star in almost 200 productions and has always been a fan favourite. More noticeable today for her large jaw (due to a medical condition that began in the mid 90s), Yam Yam never fails to entertain and took away the award for Best Supporting Actress as Doctor Fun, which was great to see. JJ Jia Xiao Chen plays Kwai, Doctor Fun's granddaughter and student of the Law school. This would probably be the first action role she has had, and gets to show off some great moves as the young protector and potential love interest of Leung's. The brilliant Michael Chan Wai Man stars as Master Pong Ching, the man in charge of closing down The Gate Of Law in wanting to keep his modern club the best in town. Although he doesn't get in on the action (saving his energy for Dennis Law's Bad Blood also produced the same year), Chan still delivers a fine performance and is always a treat to watch. Chinese-American rapper, Ou Yang Ching, plays Chung – a fighter that escaped to the US to start a new life having been bullied through school by Leung King Cheung. Now with the tables turned, he is determined to take revenge against his geeky old classmate, which just adds fuel to the fire of the fight for The Gate Of Law. When it comes to the challenge, Master Pong has his son, Pong Ka Kwan, step up to the mark. Played by Li Hai Tao, who began life in the industry starring in Shaw Brothers 2003 production, Drunken Monkey, Pong proves a worthy adversary who gives the seasoned fighters a run for their money, alongside Lo Meng.
While many other faces pop in-and-out, Gallants strengths lie with its main cast, but for me, it has to be the great Bruce Leung who steals the show. Offering a powerful and emotional performance, Bruce's storyline as Tiger gives him the chance to flex his acting chops to a degree he most likely hadn't done in such a long time. I was so excited to see that Chow Sing Chi had coerced this kung-fu legend out of retirement for his memorable role in Kung Fu Hustle, and it's great to see him continuing strong both in comedies and more serious roles. For me, his role as Tiger in Gallants is one of his best both in a comedic and emotional context, all topped off with some incredible moves that shows the man still has what it takes to be a kick-ass kung-fu star. Of course, this is supported by the fact that the great Yuen Tak is behind the choreography, another name connected with the Shaw Brothers linage that centre's around Gallants. Tak delivers an abundance of fight action, designed to match the production design and flavour of the film by bringing back the glory days of the 60's and 70's kung fu classics – albeit with a twist of modern impact. From Tiger's introduction to his final showdown, and Chen Kuan Tai's duals against Lo Meng, there is so much to enjoy when it comes to the action, with Bruce Leung's kicks proving to be just as deadly today as they were 30 years ago...
Director Derek Kwok, who had already had hits with the likes of The Pye-Dog and The Moss beforehand, was joined by first time director Clement Cheng – his co-writer of movies such as Skyline Cruisers, The Moss, and Gallants of course. Although he had worked to some degree as an assistant director on the aforementioned Skyline Cruisers for Wilson Yip, Cheng was in good hands with Kwok by his side. Having written a few well received hits at the turn of the century, such as Yip's action flick and the fun, 2002, with Nicholas Tse – Derek Kwok had also worked as an assistant director on films like Dry Wood Fierce Fire, and the awesome Dragon Tiger Gate, before debuting with fantasy-drama The Pye Dog (which was also produced by Teddy Robin Kwan). Since the success of Gallants and its collection of wins at numerous award ceremony's, Kwok has went on to direct some great titles such as Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons, As The Light Goes Out, Full Strike, and returned to the Monkey king saga once again with the very underrated, Wu Kong, starring Eddie Peng as the titular hero! Between them, both directors deliver a love letter to classic kung-fu cinema, all wrapped up in an independent feature that has its flaws but still stands strong with its funny and emotional tale of friendship, growing old, and learning to accept it!
Produced by Hong Kong legend, Andy Lau Tak Wah and actor Gordon Lam, Gallants is a lot of fun for new and old fans of Hong Kong cinema. And while some critics may tear it apart for its turn of events and shift of moods in the last 10 or 15 minutes, I applaud Kwok and Cheng for taking a fresh approach on such an over-used plot device in blending some real world emotions with amazing action. All in all, there's a reason why it won the award for Best Film and deservedly so in my eyes...
Overall: Hugely enjoyable, very funny, and packed with great martial arts action, Gallants is well worth the watch and a great showcase for its ageing stars!
DVD Extras: Trailer
THE GAMBLER AND HIS KUNG
(Hong Kong 1981)
Original Title: Long Hu Shuang Diao
Directed by Shao Hao Produced by Yao Man Hung Action by Chow Sam Starring: Chan Bo Yeung, Hon Kwok Choi, Chan Bo Cheung, Cheng Kei Ying, Wai Wang, Helen Poon, So Hong Sang, Chow Sam, Dung Ching Quen, Steve Mak, Lam Moon Wa, Hsiao Yu Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy
Rating - 1.5 / 5
Synopsis: Han Kuo Tsai, who wants to learn martial arts to settle old scores, finds himself entangled with loan sharks and a master who is far more than he appears. (90 Mins)
Views: A child witnesses his father getting killed by a kung-fu master, than vanishes for 18 years as he dedicates his life to learning martial arts so that he can take revenge. Han Kuo Tsai has led a life of poor choices that include him having a gambling addiction. He soon decides to learn martial arts so that he can take look after himself in a bid to survive the local gangsters and loan sharks. He soon meets a couple of kids and their kung fu master, who take him in and train him. As time passes, Han's master turns against him and the kids – but are soon saved by a mysterious fighter who turns out to be the child from 18 years ago!
In a year when other Hong Kong studios were trying many new things and the likes of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Lau Kar Leung were delivering high-end martial arts action, a film like The Gambler & His Kung Fu Master just seems a little behind the times. That said, it wasn't the only low budget kung-fu comedy from that year and it's not completely dreadful. It follows the typical revenge plot and in doing so, offers very little different that would make it stand out from similar flicks. While not particularly gorgeous to look at, although the poor picture quality and crop doesn't help, this 1981 flick was the debut film of director Shao Hao – a script supervisor and assistant director of a handful of Shaw Brothers titles such as Heroes Two, Men From The Monastery, Executioners From Shaolin, and Shaolin Martial Arts. Interestingly enough, apart from this film not even coming close to the greatness of those films, Shao would not direct again for almost 20 years after this, making The Horrified Dream his second effort in the year 2000 (and not a film you need to rush out to see either). Although it has a few moments to enjoy (and mainly when the action is happening), The Gambler & His Kung Fu Master spends the most of its running time trying to entertain its audience with too much broad humour that, ultimately, just falls flat...
The gambler in question is played by Hong Kong comedy-actor, Hon Kwok Choi, a familiar face of Hong Kong cinema that is usually the comic relief of most movies he stars in. These include The Cub Tiger From Kwantung, Beware Of Pickpockets, By Hook Or By Crook, Aces Go Places, and even the awesome Running On Karma where he plays the hilarious, slippery thief that gives Andy Lau a bit of trouble. In fact, Hon would star in over 130 movies before his death in 2017, including a lot of serious roles and even tried his hand at directing with the 1980s action-thriller, Crocodile Hero, starring Jason Piao Pai and Hsiao Yu Lung. His role here would be mostly utilised for the comedy elements of the story, allowing him to show some kung-fu in the final 30 minutes. The man with the hairiest cheeks in Hong Kong, Cheng Kei Ying, plays the villain of the piece – although with a bit more compassion than usual as he takes on Han Kuo Tsia and two kids as students out of sympathy until his big (?) twist. As well as starring in many titles over the years, Cheng also made his directorial debut the same year with The Eagle Fist, an more enjoyable kung-fu film starring the great Chi Kuan Chun. The two kids mentioned are played by real-life brothers, Chan Bo Yeung and Chan Bo Cheung – one of which likes to go gambling with Han while dressed as a woman. A few other recognisable faces pop up throughout such as Shaw Brothers actor Wai Wang, So Hon Sang, Shaw Brothers actress Helen Poon, and prolific actor Ho Pak Kwong who has appeared in over 460 movies over the course of his career.
Chow Sam handles the fight action – of which there really isn't a major lot to talk about. Although it would be his first solo outing as a choreographer (working with Simon Yuen and Chow Siu Loi on An Old Kung Fu Master the same year), Chow delivers some tidy action although never goes above-and-beyond to make you want to reach for the rewind button. And I must mention the fact that the kid from the start just vanishes for the most of the story, popping up in brief training sequences once in a while before he returns for the last 10 minutes to take down his fathers killer (which is the best fight of the film obviously) all while there's no sign of the titular gambler/Han Kuo Tsai character – is just bizarre! With very little fight action and a plot that really doesn't go anywhere, there's very little to care about in The Gambler & His Kung Fu Master, to recommend it to anyone!
Overall: A boring plot with flat comedy, The Gambler & The Kung Fu Master offers nothing new to fans and is one movie I never need to see again!
(Hong Kong 1994)
Original Title: Dei Ha Do Wong
Directed by Richard Yeung Kuen Produced by Tony Ma Tin Yiu Action by Lam Moon Wa Starring: Max Mok, Roy Cheung, Jacqueline Ng Suet Man, Jimmy Lee (Lung Fong), Billy Chow, Lee Suet Man, Karel Wong Chi Yeung, Lam Moon Wa, Ardy Lam Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Gambling / Triad / Action
Rating - 2 / 5
Synopsis: Chen Chun and San are two low-level gangsters living in mainland China. After opening their own gambling joint, Chen Chun kills the owner of a rival parlour. He flees to Hong Kong and soon falls for a heroin addicted hooker named Fang. But their bliss is soon shattered when Chen learns that his gambling parlour back home has been taken over by a notorious gangster, who has also killed his girlfriend that he left behind. Chen Chun returns to set things right. (85 Mins)
Views: The gorgeous Max Mok plays Chen Chun, a low level gangster who lives in mainland China, backed by his cousin San (Roy Cheung) who like to cause trouble in their local town, harassing business owners and market traders for protection money. Chen soon falls for Meila, the beautiful daughter of a street based telephone operator who proves to be an overly protective mother. After witnessing another gang of thugs muscling in on his turf and hassling his girlfriend for protection money, Chen saves the day in knowing it will make Meila start to fall for him. Soon after, a notorious gangster named Bolo Guy arrives in town (played by Jimmy Lee) who opens up a new gambling parlour after obtaining a license much quicker than the cousins. Angered, the two of them visit his place to cause a bit of bother and let themselves be known. After a lucky streak, Chen and San leave with their winnings only to find themselves attacked by Bolo's men in the streets, led by Billy Chow – who gives them a good beating! After being warned by Bolo for their actions and thrown from his moving vehicle, the injured cousins are nursed back to health by Meila which soon leads to Chen proposing to her. As they set out for revenge, the pair soon find out that their license has been approved and soon open their own gambling club – much to the annoyance of Bolo Guy and other parlour owners. As business booms and life rolls on, Bolo Guy has been busy trying to find an old friend that could destroy Chen Chun's lucky streak – egging him on as such to become the King of Gamblers in China. The friend agrees and heads to the cousins new parlour, determined to win a match that would see him take over the club. But after losing to Chen in an embarrassing match, the would-be King of Gamblers kicks-off a massive gang fight that leaves him dead after Chen accidentally rams his head into a large hook. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Chen Chun leaves the club and Meila under the care of San as he escapes to Hong Kong before getting arrested. As he adjusts to living in the city, Chen Chun soon finds solace with Fang – a fast talking hooker with a love for gambling as well as heroin. As he tries to pull her out of her addiction for the latter, cousin San is dealing with attacks on their club by Bolo's men and soon finds his own men double-crossing him under the vengeful gangsters orders. With Meila taken hostage, San fights to rescue her and make their escape only to find that she has been shot during their getaway. Word quickly gets back to Chen Chun who makes his way home to find that San is now a pimp, having lost the club to Bolo and suffering from the guilt of having Meila die in his arms. With Bolo's men around every corner, San is soon executed in a hail of bullets that sees Chen go on the quickest ever revenge mission as he takes care of Bolo and his men in less than a minute. As he drives back to his pick-up point by the harbour, Chen Chun realises he has been lured into a trap as a small army of policemen open fire and kill the gambling baron in his car as his hooker-girlfriend waits on her rooftop back in Hong Kong, for his return...
Made by the Cheung Sing Movie Company, a short lived production house who made titles like The Complicated Raping Case, Why Wild Girls, and The Armed Policewoman – none of which I have seen as yet – Gambling Baron doesn't offer anything overly exciting or special, but does prove to be a watchable crime drama with a few decent fight scenes. The major let-down for me has to be that god-awful, anti-climatic ending that seems to be crammed in to a few minutes (if even) and sees any main characters that are left, killed off without a problem. Although Roy Cheung's character of San gets a lengthy and impressive fight scene and rescue mission just before the finale, Max Mok's vengeful Chen Chun arrives at Bolo's place with a machine gun, shoots his men down instantly, and tosses a grenade in the back seat of a car that blows the big baddie to bits – and all in under 60 seconds. His immediate arrival at the docks got me hoping that it was going to be the big action finale for Mok, but no! Within seconds of him pulling up, the 15 or 20 armed police just open fire and kill him instantly. And while it may seem more realistic in the grand scheme of things, it's just an odd way to see a Hong Kong movie of this period come to a close. This falls on the shoulders of Jimmy Leung Chi Ming, a writer who had worked as an assistant director on the brilliant I Love Maria, and The Big Heat, as well as working with Richard Yeung Kuen on China Girls the year before they made this. While I've never found him to be the strongest writer in the world, Leung would go on to write many middle-of-the-road features such as The Jail Of No Return, Ultimate Revenge with Cynthia Khan, and a host of DTV movies starring Fan Siu Wong like Shadow Mask (aka Black Mask 3), Power King, and Spice Cop.
Regardless, Gambling Baron does have its moments. It's far from the best and just as far from the worst of its time, but there's definitely no need to go back to it after one watch. Director Richard Yeung Kuen began working as a director (and assistant director) in 1959, but really got going in the 70s with titles like Chinese Kung Fu, and Duel Of The 7 Tigers, before moving into the 80s with Frankie Chan's Read Lips, Shaw Brothers Seeding Of A Ghost, and Fortune Hunters with Chin Siu Ho and Philip Ko. The 1990s would see his career start to slow down with titles like The Revenge Of Angel with Moon Lee, Bloody Beast, and Gambling Baron being some of his last before Leung retired from the industry with his last project at the turn-of-the-century. In terms of cast, the delightful Max Mok and wonderful Roy Cheung really just work with what they have. Both play characters that we've seen a thousand times over and really offer nothing new to that formula. Mind you, they certainly don't deliver a bad performance and look good when the action comes about, getting to punch and kick their way through battles as well as get in on some stunt work. The great Jimmy Lee returns to his God Of Gamblers roots as the gangster casino boss who causes all the problems. Although he has starred in many kung-fu movies, Lee (or Lung Fong) exchanges his fists for guns in the Gambling Baron, and leaves most fights up to his men – one of which is the fantastic Billy Chow. While he gets a decent bit of action during the night-time attack on the cousins, the fan-favourite villain only really appears once more at the end where he is quickly shot and killed. Jacqueline Ng Suet Man plays Meila, in one of her last few roles. Although having only been in the business for a decade, Ng made enough of an impression in titles like Against All, Martial Arts Master Wong Fei Hung, Gigolo & Whore 2, Raped By An Angel, and Hero From The Boundary Of Time.
While it may seem lazy in production values and is definitely a case of 'having seen it all before', Gambling Baron is a watchable flick with a few good action scenes courtesy of fight choreographer Lam Moon Wa, who has starred in and choreographed for many great titles such as No More Love, No More Death with Jacky Cheung, Story Of Drunken Master, Kirk Wong's The Club, Journey Of The Doomed, Avenging Quartet, and many more – as well as a brief appearance in this. While keeping things realistic, Lam provides enough watchable fight scenes to save this movie being a complete write-off with the large gang fight in the middle of the movie being a highlight, as well as Roy Cheung's final action scene and rescue mission!
Overall: Not completely dreadful, Gambling Baron has been done so many times before but is still worthy of one watch at least!
GAMBLING FOR HEAD
(Hong Kong 1975)
Original Title: Do Ren Tou (aka) Savage Barbarian
Directed by Jimmy Shaw Produced by Jimmy Shaw, K.S. Chang Action by Bruce Leung Siu Lung Starring: James Nam, Kim Ki Ju, Travador Ramos, Someno Yukio, Tong Tin Hei, Wu Chia Hsiang, Bruce Leung, Shing Fui On, Richard Cheung Kuen, Tony Leung Siu Hung, Lam Hak Ming, Chiang Nan Reviewing: Vengeance Video UK DVD Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Drama
Rating - 2 / 5
DVD Synopsis: When his brother-in-law loses his head in a gambling den, kung fu master James Nam sets out on a one-man vengeance trail on the villains who pushed his brother to the limits and resulted in his horrific death. Non-stop foot-to-foot action kung fu the way you like it! (86 Mins)
Views: This mid-70s kung-fu flick tells the tale of James Nam, a fisherman who lost his wife during childbirth and now lives out his days as a single parent trying to look after his sick daughter. Leaving his brother to care for his kid, Nam hands over his last dollar for medicine before he sets off on his journey to find more funds. As the child gets worse, a visiting doctor tells brother that he must buy some medicine immediately and get her to a hospital, but with the prescription costing two dollars this proves difficult. As he ponders what to do, the brother enters a casino with the plan that one lucky bet should double his fortune and allow him to buy the much needed medicine. But as he is afraid of losing the dollar, the desperate uncle bets his head – putting his life on the line in the hope that he can save his niece. Within seconds, his bet is lost and he is soon brutally beaten to death by the casino staff! On his return, the poorly fisherman finds his daughter dead and quickly learns of his brothers unfortunate fate. Angered and driven by vengeance, Nam sets out to find each of the casino members that had a part in his brothers death and kills each of them off in the same way they attacked his brother. As he arrives at the casino carrying a sack of heads from his victims, the staff and some hired thugs try to stop the kung-fu fisherman in a blistering and lengthy showdown packed with brutal moves and hard violence!
Gambling For Head sounds the kind of title you would have found on the top-shelf or secret room at the the back of your local, independent video store. Of course, this isn't a porno about a nymphomaniac with a gambling addiction, but an old-school kung-fu flick packed with lengthy fight scenes that help flesh out that well known tale of revenge. Directed and produced by Jimmy Shaw Feng, a 1950s actor who went behind the camera as a producer/director in the 70s to deliver titles such as Bravest Fist, Fist Of Fury 2, Avenging Boxer, and Shaolin Iron Finger. While none of these would ever be considered bona-fide classics of Hong Kong cinema, the most of his films did carry enough entertaining qualities – to some degree. Gambling For Head is certainly one such film, told in a non-linear fashion with a straight-forward story that gets right to the point and uses its great fight scenes as the highlight of the show. Choreographed by the wonderful Bruce Leung Siu Lung, whose recent revival in Kung Fu Hustle, Gallants, and Badges Of Fury brought him bouncing back into action cinema, the fights actually get better and better as the story moves along – with most of them offering some sort of brutal violence and decent moves. While they aren't anything overly special, the fight action is still quite enjoyable to watch with the highlight being the final 25 minutes which is practically non-stop and features a claw-on-a-chain weapon very similar to the flying guillotine. Bruce also pops up in a cameo as one of the casino thugs for a fight scene or two, along with his younger brother and equally successful star, Tony Leung Siu Hung – who no doubt helped behind the scenes. A young Shing Fui On also appears throughout, as does the likes of Lam Hak Ming and Richard Cheung Kuen, producer and production manager on many hits like The Club, A Life Of Ninja, Triads – The Inside Story, and pretty much all of the early kung-fu hits from Seasonal Films...
The great James Nam Gung Fan leads the show as the poor fisherman who loses everything. Starting his career with the Shaw Brothers in the early 70s, Nam starred in many great titles like The Heroic Ones, The Water Margin, King Boxer, and 14 Amazons, before going on to star in other films such as A Tooth For A Tooth, The Secret Rivals, Fist Of Fury 2, and Enter The Game Of Death. Aside from working as an assistant director on the aforementioned Secret Rivals with Ng See Yuen, Nam would also direct 1974's The Fierce One, as well as Bruce And Shaolin Kung Fu starring Bruce Le. Often playing the bad guy in most of his roles, it was nice to see him play the hero for a change – something of which he manages pretty well and as per usual, pulls off the action scenes brilliantly. His main competition and the big villain of the piece is fellow South Korean, Kim Ki Ju, another popular actor that got into the business in the late 60s after signing up with Shaw Brothers. Not long after, Kim would appear in many early Golden Harvest productions such as When Taekwondo Strikes, Stoner, The Tournament, and Broken Oath, all with Angela Mao Ying. He would soon star for a young John Woo in The Dragon Tamers, and Hand Of Death, before returning to South Korea for a host of Dragon Lee/Godfrey Ho projects that have brought a lot of fun over the years. Kim's big boss is backed by a host of fighters including Travador Ramos (in his last role), Shaw Brothers actor Someno Yukio who also starred in Ninja In The Dragons Den, and Tong Tin Hei – another actor from the Shaw's studio who started in Wang Yu's fantastic Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman, finishing his time in front of the camera as a football manager in Yuen Biao's super-fun football flick, The Champions!
While far from perfect, Gambling For Head tells a basic story although without ever boring its audience. The cast may not be anything special, and have definitely appeared in better, but to be honest they don't disappoint either and work with what they've got. The violence sometimes comes as a bit of a surprise, but in a good way that makes the fight scenes a little more exciting, and the last 25 minutes are just non-stop with some fantastic moves and a wild finale. Although it's not essential viewing, this is an old-school flick that proves to be quite entertaining and decently made.
Overall: Packed with violent kung-fu battles, Gambling For Head is worth a watch and entertains!
DVD Extras: Trailers
Original Title: Gorugo 13 ゴルゴ13
Directed by Junya Sato Produced by Koji Shundo Starring: Ken Takakura, Mohsen Sohrabi, Jaleh Sam, Pouri Banayi, Ahmed Ghadakchian, Reza Azargun Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Spy Thriller /Action / Drama
Rating - 3.7 / 5
Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Synopsis: The first film adaptation of the long-running manga series by Takao Saito, director Junya Sato cast Ken Takakura (who was the original inspiration for the character) as the mysterious and stoic killer-for-hire who always completes his assignment (usually with his signature scoped M16 rifle). Golgo 13 is hired to eliminate Max Boa, the head of a Middle Eastern crime syndicate specialising in kidnapping and forced prostitution. Filmed entirely in pre-revolution Iran, Golgo13 was a huge success across Asia but was rarely seen in the West until now. Eureka Classics is proud to present Golgo 13 in its UK home video debut from a new restoration. (104 Mins)
Views: Just 5 years before this production began, Takao Saito launched his new manga that quickly took the comic world by storm. With millions of copies sold, Golgo 13 inspired no less than 2 feature films, some anime films and popular television series, and 6 video games, among many other things. Still going strong today, it is one of the oldest continuing manga series and the second best selling overall. So it would make sense that one of Japan's leading film studios, the Toei Company, would produce the first live-action adaptation casting the wonderful Ken Takakura as the hitman known as Duke Togo. This must have been an incredible win for artist and creator Saito, as he had initially based the design of his character on the popular actor, and it's quite clear that Takahura pays respect to him with his performance as Golgo 13. The film went on to be one of the top ten highest-grossing Japanese films of 1974, with its release coming out just towards the end of December '73, and was shot almost entirely in Tehran, in a pre-revolution Iran, which gives it a very unique setting that come across much like that of an early James Bond flick from the same era. This live-action adaptation of Golgo 13 sees the hitman sent on a mission to the middle east, where he is assigned to assassinate a criminal boss who has been kidnapping woman and forcing them into prostitution. It's a pretty simple storyline, but one that director Junya Sato manages to stretch out to almost 2 hours with plenty of tense drama, some slick action, and tidy direction!
With over 200 credits to his name, the wonderful Ken Takakura made his debut in the acting world way back in the mid-50s. Throughout his career, the star worked with most of Japan's finest directors as well as Hollywood directors Robert Aldrich in Too Late The Hero, Sidney Pollack's The Yakuza, and Ridley Scott's thriller Black Rain alongside Michael Douglas, as well as Chinese director Zhang Yimou in his family drama, Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles. This wouldn't be the first time either that Ken had worked with director Sato, with The Drifting Avenger (from 1968) being their first project together. Interestingly enough, this film was also filmed away from home – often described as a Japanese Western shot in Australia. Ken would appear in Sato's horse-racing drama, Nippon Dabi Katsukyu, before Golgo 13 came about – and probably being their biggest joint project to date. Of course, the wonderful Bullet Train would soon follow quickly followed by The Last Kamikaze, Manhunt and Never Give Up in 1978, which would be their last film together. For the most part, Ken is supported by a talented Persian cast which helps make his appearance and presence even more prominent.
The late Junya Sato, who only passed in February 2019 at the ripe old age of 86, was one of Japan's finest directors going on to make 40 titles since his debut in 1963. He would cover a wide range of genres from the aforementioned films with Ken Takakura to others such as Thirst For Love, The Private Police, The Last Kamikaze, Proof Of The Man, The Go Masters, Tonko, and Sakurada Gate Incident in 2010 which would also be his final movie. I love what he has done here with Golgo 13, with many of the scenes looking like they were pulled right from the pages. This is also due to the fantastic cinematography captured by Masahiko Iimura – a man who captured almost 80 feature films since his debut in 1959 with Prince Of Space. This cinematographer lensed titles for almost every major director between the 1960s and 90s, including movies such as Drifting Detective, Toseinin, Quick Draw Okatsu, A Haunted Turkish Bathhouse, Return Of The Sister Street Fighter, The Battle Of Port Arthur, and many other titles for Junya Sato. I must also note the wonderful score produced by Chuji Kinoshita – a busy and talented man who composed music for over 300 film and television productions. Amazingly, and although he had practically retired in the late 80s, his final projects came about in 2017 which was just a year before his passing at 102 years of age. As I've said over and over again, this kind of movie comes from an ear of film-making that we rarely see today. Golgo 13 may not be perfect, but it stands tall in amongst this classic period of Japanese cinema, and still proves to be as entertaining to watch over 50 years later...
Overall: Slick direction, neat action, and great performances make Golgo 13 a film well worth checking out, and is one of Ken Takakura's most memorable moments!
Eureka Video Blu-ray Extras: 2K Restoration, Audio Commentary by Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, Lucky 13: Interview with Junya Sato's Biographers, Trailer
Watch my unboxing video for this Eureka Video release HERE