LACKEY AND THE LADY TIGER
(Hong Kong 1980)
Original Title: She Mao He Hun Xing Quan (aka) Fearless Kid & The Lady Tiger
Directed by Norman Law, Siao Lung Produced by Ng See Yuen Action by Chan Siu Pang, To Wai Wo Starring: Mars, Hwang Jang Lee, Tien Niu, Linda Lin, Shek Kin, Fung Ging Man, Chiu Chi Ling, To Siu Ming, Chiang Kam, Charlie Chan, Cham Siu Hung Reviewing: Amazon Prime UK Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy / Drama
Rating - 4 / 5
Synopsis: Jackie Chan's stunt man, Mars portrays a sprightly kung fu kid who has a running feud with a young girl who's disguised as a boy (Tien Niu). Her dad is Shek Kin, who teaches Mars his Dragon pole so he can get back at the local bullies. Enter hwang Jang Lee, as a convict out to avenge those who had him imprisoned, it so happens that the sister of Shek Kin is that person. (98 Mins)
Views: Big-time producer Ng See Yuen, gives Norman Law Man the chance to impress with his directorial debut, Lackey And The Lady Tiger. Having spent a few years alongside Yuen Woo Ping as an assistant director on films such as The Secret Rivals 2, Drunken Master, and Dance Of The Drunk Mantis, Law shifts to the next level as writer and director of this otherwise, rehash of Seasonal Film's smash hit movie Snake In The Eagle's Shadow...
Exchanging Jackie Chan for his best friend and long time stunt man, Mars, the film tells the tale of a troublesome young man who gets bullied by workmates and strangers. After getting harassed by some local thugs over a stolen dog, Mars soon finds himself saved by a young kung-fu-fighter (Alan) who he had met earlier in a friendly fight. Alan offers to teach Mars martial arts, resulting in some hilarious training sequences and antics that soon result in Mars finally learning to stand-up for himself, but still not enough to stop the bullies. Elsewhere, convicted criminal Sek Ba (Hwang Jang Lee) is set for release from prison. He is visited by his sister (Linda Lin) who tries to convince him to follow her back to their teacher, but Sek refuses and claims to have unfinished business. While searching for his new friend, Mars comes across an old fisherman (Shek Kin) who claims to have been taught by the same teacher. He soon reveals that he is, in fact, the grandfather of Alan and offers to teach Mars the secrets of the Dragon Pole technique to help him become a better fighter.
Around the one hour mark, Sek Ba is released from prison and soon finds himself toe-to-toe with his sister, who only wants him to return with her. After a brief but highly impressive fight, Linda Lin is defeated and soon finds Mars running to her rescue. Instantly going up against the mighty Hwang Jang Lee, Mars soon finds he is no match for the super-kicker and soon ends up next to Sek's sister. After helping her home, the flexible Ms. Lin gives Mars some tips in how to defeat her brother – one of which is learning how to fight like a cat, something he immediately starts to figure out by repeatedly launching a poor cat into the air in order to learn how it lands on all-fours. Copying the felines moves, Mars soon trains himself to become a skilled fighter by blending his cat style with the Dragon Pole technique, as well as the snake fist he learned previous. He soon puts this to the test when a local kung-fu master offers to challenge him and is quickly taught a lesson after a highly entertaining pole fight. During a friendly battle between teacher and student, Mars soon finds out the truth about Alan when he grabs his chest only to find out that his friend is really a girl – and granddaughter of the old fisherman. Sek Ba soon finds his way to the pole masters house and launches an attack on him to take revenge for his imprisonment 10 years earlier. Just before Sek Ba delivers his final blow, Mars arrives to save his master and kicks-off a highly impressive end battle that pits him against Hwang Jang Lee's furious kicks and pole techniques. With granddaughter Helen soon joining the battle, the fight action ramps-up a notch offering a few moves that pay homage to Jackie and Hwang's final battle in Snake In The Eagles Shadow, yet still proving to be a highly enjoyable closure to the story in its own right!
Lackey And The Lady Tiger could easily have starred Jackie Chan and made for a wonderful trilogy of Seasonal Film productions in his filmography, but instead, we get a regular face of countless Hong Kong films and a favourite of any true Hong Kong movie fan – Mars, who most certainly does not disappoint in his role as the charming lackey who gets sick of being the human punchbag. While it really is a movie plot we've seen a thousand times over, Norman Law still manages to bring something exciting to his debut backed by a fantastic cast of Seasonal regulars, and some incredible choreography by veteran Chan Siu Pang. Having starred in over 100 titles during his career, with roles in Election 1 & 2, and Shaolin Vs. Evil Dead: Ultimate Power before his death in 2005, Chan was also the director and choreographer of many great films such as Shaolin Death Squads, Rivals Of The Silver Fox, 18 Bronzemen, Fatal Flying Guillotines, and The Old Master which starred Jackie and Sammo's real-life opera teacher, Yu Jim Yuen. For this project, Chan was joined by To Wai Wo, an actor of many titles including One-Armed Boxer, The Secret Rivals, Hand Of Death, Fighting Fool, and modern hits such as A Better Tomorrow, Magic Crystal, Seven Warriors, Once Upon A Time In China, and Angels Project with Moon Lee – which would be his last project. To Wai Wo would also serve as the action choreographer on kung fu classics such as Fist Of Shaolin, Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin, and Chan Siu Pang's Choi Lee Fat Kung Fu. Between them, both manage to deliver a host of exciting fight scenes that, dare I say it, sometimes prove to be just as exciting as the projects that inspired them. While mostly known for his work behind the screen or that as a stunt man, Mars proves to be a highly skilled kung-fu fighter in what is possibly his greatest ever role as a leading man and pulls off some incredible moves – both in hand-to-hand and with weapons. While there are plenty of impressive shapes being used, the speed, impact, and lengthy moves are all worth talking about.
Supporting cast members Tien Niu, Shek Kin, Hwang Jang Lee, Linda Lin Ying, and the burly Chiang Kam, all get in on the action with some fantastic fight scenes that never disappoint – as do a number of other regular faces. In fact, this is one more film from Seasonal that I'd love to see get a restored blu-ray release in the near future. While it may not be fresh in a lot of ways, Lackey And The Lady Tiger still wins with the charm of its leading man, great supporting cast, and wonderful choreography and it was great to see Norman Law Man go on to deliver more great titles over the course of his career with A Hearty Response starring Chow Yun Fat, Walk On Fire with Andy Lau, (Ninja) Vampire Buster with Jacky Cheung, and Family Honour with Wilson Lam and Joey Wong. All in all, it's as exciting and fun as the titles that inspired it and possibly one of the better ones that came from the hundreds of imitations, just before the traditional kung-fu movie scene came to a close...
Overall: A lot of fun with great fight choreography and fantastic cast, Lackey And The Lady Tiger is well worth the watch!
THE LADY CONSTABLES
Original Title: Fei Yan Shuang Jiao (aka) Black Belt Angels
Directed by Chang Hsin Yi Produced by Kei Chung Lam, Yen Wu Tong, Ping Wai Fan Action by Ko Pao Starring: Angela Mao Ying, Judy Lee (Chia Ling), Chang Yi, Wang Kuan Hsiung, Chen Hsin Yi, Han Su, Robert Tai, Yu Sung Chao, Shih Ting Ken, Fan Wai, Peter Chang , Sham Chin Bo Reviewing: Xenon Entertainment US VHS Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy / Drama
Rating - 3.3 / 5
VHS Synopsis: Fierce females in flowing frocks force fear on fiendish filchers of the Five Phoenixes!! Angela Mao and Chai Ling star as cops on the trail of bandit leader Chang Yi, whose gang has stolen the Five Phoenixes Night-Shining Pearl. They confront him at his fortress stronghold in an all-out effort to prevent evil from dominating the martial world! (87 Mins)
Views: Kung-fu cinema queens, Angela Mao Ying and Judy Lee team up to stop a feared bandit leader who has robbed and killed a team of escorts, in order to gain the Five Shining Pearls. The former plays the sheriff of the town of which the robbery took place, with the latter playing the niece of the murdered escort leader and on a quest for vengeance. On their journey, they are often aided by a silent swordsman, who only communicates with hand written scrolls and works as the chief bodyguard to the Prince. While the three of them help each other when needed, there's still an obvious reluctance that kicks off a little healthy competition in the race to find the bandit leader. Their search pits them against five different bandit gangs in search of the real criminal, with each of their leaders often ending up in a coffin on the back of Judy Lee's cart. It's here that she hurries off with the prisoner so that she can interrogate them alone. Unfortunately, there also happens to be a secret killer at large who is intent on silencing the very same people before they can talk. As they narrow the suspects down, the trio soon find the man they've been looking for and face-off against him in a duel to the death!
I remember buying this on video when I lived in Toronto over 20 years ago. It was a fun watch back then, and still is now, but I can only imagine how much better it just could be if restored and released in its wide-screen glory. But I say that about a lot of titles and no doubt I'll be waiting some time. Lady Constables isn't anything overly amazing, but it does carry a half-decent story, and the chance to see these two starlets in action is always a plus. It also offers plenty of kung-fu battles to keep any old-school fan happy, with men in metal suits (looking like some very poor early designs of Robocop), and Mao Ying shooting long ribbons out of her sleeves. While I've seen better from all main stars involved, I suppose it isn't all their fault when it comes down to it. The action is handled by veteran actor and fight director Ko Pao in his last duty as a choreographer. While he would also deliver his last starring role the following year alongside Mao Ying in the fun, Dance Of Death, Ko Pao would go on to direct a small number of titles until the mid-1980s including Shaolin Iron Claws, 7 Commandments Of Kung Fu, 5 Fighters From Shaolin, and one of my favourites – Ninja Kids: Kiss Of Death with Alexander Lo Rei. Although he had worked with many of these same stars over the years, Ko provides enough exciting kung-fu fights during the course of its running time, but certainly doesn't push himself (or the stars) in delivering any martial arts action that would have had the young Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan shaking in their boots who were offering up classics like Enter The Fat Dragon, Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog, Warriors Two, Snake In The Eagles Shadow, and Drunken Master, the very same year.
Of course, it's having such a great cast that helps Lady Constables be a bit more entertaining than many other average kung-fu flicks. At this stage of the game, Angela Mao Ying had starred in a string of hit films for Golden Harvest including The Angry River, Hapkido, When Taekwondo Strikes, The Fate Of Lee Khan, Broken Oath, and many more including her infamous role in Enter The Dragon. Fu Shing Opera School classmate, Judy Lee/Chia Ling was in a very similar position with films like Queen Boxer, The Girl Named Iron Phoenix, Assassin, The Blazing Temple, 8 Masters, 10 Brothers Of Shaolin, and more under her belt. So I think in knowing what they had done by the time this production came about and given the rare chance to have them share the screen in such great leading roles, Lady Constables may have possibly benefited more from having a stronger fight choreographer on-board that may just have made this one of their greatest titles. The great Chang Yi appears in what is pretty a much just a cameo, that sees him take on the trio of heroes in the finale but its hardly anything to write home about, and popular Taiwanese actor stars as Hung Yi, the chief bodyguard to the Prince. Although he starred in almost 80 productions, Lady Constables was still early on in his career after starring in titles like Iron Ox: The Tigers Killer, Adventure At Shaolin, The Golden Mask, and Clutch Of Power for example. Minor flaws can be excused to a point as this was only Chang Hsin Yi's second feature as a director, after the lesser known Snaky Knight Fight Against Mantis, directing a total of 10 films over his 4 year career (as a director) with titles such as John Liu's Incredible Kung Fu Mission, and Struggle Through Death, as well as Raiders with Chen Kuan Tai. Chang, who had been writing screenplays since the early 70s, then returned to his first love after directing Woman Police in 1982, going on to pen many great titles such as The 18 Bronzemen, Fist Of Fury 2, The Traitorous, Eagle's Claw, Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin, Dance Of Death, Kung Fu Wonder Child, A Life Of Ninja, and many, many more...
Overall: Plenty of old-school fun with a great cast, Lady Constables makes for a good watch at least once!
LADY COP & PAPA CROOK
(Hong Kong 2008)
Original Title: Dai Sau Cha Ji Lui
Directed by Alan Mak, Felix Chong Produced by John Chong Ching Action by Nicky Li Chung Chi Starring: Sammi Cheng, Eason Chan, Zhang Guo Li, Dong Yong, Chapman To, Michelle Ye Xuan, Kate Tsui, Richie Ren, Patrick Tam, Kenny Wong, Conroy Chan, Vincent Kok, Joe Cheung, Liu Kai Chi Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Action / Comedy / Thriller
Rating - 2.5 / 5
Synopsis: A corrupt red oil kingpin enlists the aid of a female police officer to help find his missing son. (92 Mins)
Views: Suffering from relationship problems and the realisation that she may never be a mother, lady cop Maureen Szeto is assigned to the case of a missing child. The child, however, is the son of a triad boss (John) who deals in illegal red oil between Hong Kong and the mainland. Along with his men, John finds it very difficult to work with the police, nervous of them taking advantage of the situation. As the case progresses, Maureen does indeed keep a close eye on what John and his men are up to, yet at the same time, reveals a conspiracy that's a little too close to home for the triad boss that has lead to the kidnapping of his son. On top of that, a vengeful cop from China is determined to get his hands on John after his men caused the death of a child during his last visit to the mainland. Together, both sides of the law must pull together to help rescue the boy and get over their own problems to solve the case!
It's taken me over a decade to want to watch Lady Cop & Papa Crook. While I enjoy watching Sammi Cheng and Eason Chan, they aren't the kind of stars that make me want to rush out to see their films, and the same could be said for Chapman To who also appears here. A lot of critics who have reviewed this over the years seemed to be a bit more concerned on Sammi Cheng's 'return' to the film world since taking a break after the critically slammed Stanley Kwan film, Everlasting Regret, but I couldn't care less. It was only 3 years – a period of time Daniel Day Lewis sleeps for between most of his projects. The film is written and directed by both Alan Mak and Felix Chong, who between them have brought fans some incredible titles over the years such as the Infernal Affairs Trilogy, the Overheard Trilogy, Confession Of Pain, and Project Gutenberg/The Counterfeiter with Chow Yun Fat and Aaron Kwok, all of which are very stylishly made and very well written – as well as proving to be massive hits for the two film-makers. It's obvious that they wanted to bring that same style and flavour to Lady Cop & Papa Crook, but this time adding a healthy dose of comedy. Most of that humour falls on the shoulders of sassy cop Cheng, who does offer some genuine laughs and is enjoyable to watch, with other members of the cast getting into situations that are quite funny at times. And while I've long championed the blending of genres from Hong Kong cinema over the years, it seems that not many fans and critics today are open to that madcap mix that once made these films so special. It's almost as if they expect Hong Kong movies to be a little more like their Hollywood counterparts and stick to a straightforward story or theme, which is unfortunate. I know we will never have the golden era of HK film back anytime soon, but one can always hope. And aside from the critics, it also seems like a lot of modern Hong Kong filmmakers are quite happy to deliver a more polished, western-looking production than that of their predecessors which has seen a dramatic shift in style with the movies we have seen produced in the last 20 years. The point I'm getting to (eventually) is that as much as I enjoy the blending of genres, the comedic moments just seems lost among the cold filter and dramatic tone that accompany most of Lady Cop & Papa Crook. Imagine seeing clips of Tokyo Raiders popping up throughout Infernal Affairs and you'll understand what I mean...
Of course, it's not completely dreadful and boasts an interesting cast – albeit with many cameos for the most part. Richie Ren cameos as a camp Ricky-Martin-wannabe nightclub dancer and gigalo, along with Chow Sing Chi regulars Tenky Tin Kai Man and Vincent Kok, director of Forbidden City Cop and Jackie Chan's Gorgeous. The late Liu Kai Chi pops up as a gangster who gets on the wrong side of John, and prolific actor/director Joe Cheung – the man behind The Incredible Kung Fu Master, Pom Pom & Hot Hot, Flaming Brothers, and Return Engagement – stars as one of the triad bosses right-hand men. There's appearances from Emotion Cheung, the sushi-chef zombie in Bio-Zombie, popular actors Patrick Tam and Conroy Chi, with Chinese actor Zhang Guoli playing the cop from mainland China. As well as starring in many hits since the early 80s, including Feng Xiao Gang's Cell Phone, Aftershock, and Kung Fu Yoga, Zhang has also directed a number of his own titles over the years. Of course, Sammi Cheng and Eason Chan really need no introduction at this stage and carry their roles quite well, with Chan surprising me in his role as the fatherly kingpin with a heart. And Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Nicky Li, handles the films action sequences which, to be honest, offered nothing overly exciting that could easily have been directed by someone lesser-known in the industry.
I think it's fair to say that, while extremely well made, well-acted, and entertaining enough, Lady Cop & Papa Crook does come across a little uneven at times. I did get to see the uncut version (with the Chinese version having been cut by 6 minutes) and was bored a few times, but I'd hardly say it was unwatchable. That said, I would have been disappointed had I paid the money to import it from Hong Kong upon release, and will probably never watch it again in my lifetime!
Overall: Although watchable and entertaining at times, Lady Cop & Papa Crook isn't the best we've seen from directors Alan Mak and Felix Chong!
(aka) Lady Kickboxer
Directed by David Worth Produced by Gope T. Samtani Action by Tanaka Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Robert Ginty, Bella Esperance, Hengky Tornado, Thomas Forcher, Tanaka Reviewing: Rapi Films UK VHS Release Genres: Martial Arts / Drama / Thriller
Rating - 2.5 / 5
VHS Synopsis: Cynthia Rothrock is back in her most powerful picture since the acclaimed Martial Law. Blonde, blue eyed, Kath Gallagher (Rothrock) is a former intelligence officer. Kathy is undecover again, this time as a prostitute on the trail of the sinister and powerful international criminal, known as the Exporter, who masterminded her husbands murder at their wedding. In a personal vendetta, Kathy takes up martial arts training and in the tradition of Enter The Dragon, becomes a dragon... A lady dragon. In explosive martial arts action, Rothrock is faster and tougher than ever before, she kicks and shatters her way through the best fighting scenes of her outstanding career. (97 Mins)
Views: After the murder of her husband, x-CIA agent Kathy Gallagher decides to hide out in Indonesia, earning her living by kicking ass in underground fights organised by a Chinese kingpin. Biding her time and drowning her sorrows in a local bar, Kathy soon learns of the whereabouts of her husbands killer – Australian/German drug baron, Ludwig Hauptmann. Going undercover as a high-class hooker, Kathy makes her way into a local nightclub and soon finds Ludwig in her sights. She makes her move but soon finds herself restrained and caught by his men and raped by the man she hates. Once done with her, Ludwig has Kathy thrown from his car and dumped in the pouring rain by the side of some rice fields. It is here that a new path begins for Kathy Gallagher when she is rescued by a mute old man and his cute grandson. Together, they nurse the ex-agent back to health in their jungle home and offer to teach her stronger martial arts so that she can take revenge on Hauptmann. Once ready (which actually doesn't take very long at all), Kathy tricks her way into working for Ludwig where she quickly starts to bring him down from the inside. It all leads to a brutal showdown where Kathy and Ludwig face off against each other in a fight to the death!
I have to admit, it's been a couple of decades since I last watched Lady Dragon. While I remember enjoying it a little more as a teen, I think I found it entertaining for many different reasons this time, such as the cheesy script, unintentional comedy, dated music, and predictability. I had actually forgotten that Richard Norton was the main bad guy here, so was pleasantly surprised to see him when he first appeared on the screen. Lady Dragon is an incredibly low-budget production - although nowhere near as low as my own - and the audio for some of the dialogue can come across quite tinny or low at times, and there's certainly nothing flash about it in terms of production value. That said, it's a film that we've only ever seen in 4:3 ratio and only on VHS (for me at least), but something tells me that a wide-screen HD version of the film could benefit it greatly, as there are some genuinely nice moments of cinematography (captured by the director himself). It seems to be a decently made production overall, albeit with a dreadful score that probably seemed dated about a month after the film's release. Written by Clifford Morh and director David Worth, who worked together the following year on the unrelated (and probably better film overall) Lady Dragon 2 – which I reviewed under the title Angel Of Fury – Lady Dragon was never made to win awards and was clearly inspired by the success of Worth's self-directed 1989 Van Damme opus, Kickboxer which was his previous project before this – as well as working as DOP on Bloodsport in 1988.
Having been back Stateside for a couple of years at this stage, Cyndy had said goodbye to her brief stint in Hong Kong (a period of her career that was never matched from 1990 onwards) and had already made an impression in western productions like Martial Law 1 & 2, Fast Getaway, and Tiger Claws, before Lady Dragon came around. While the most of them lacked the fun of her previous Hong Kong outings, it was clear that Rothrock was focusing on the more serious side of acting – trading highly choreographed martial arts action for the more basic style of American films, in order to try and secure stronger roles in Hollywood. Unfortunately, due to the bevy of low budget titles that followed, there really wasn't much chance for Cyndy to flex her acting chops and as the fights got less exciting, the direction of her career gradually got worse and fans like myself hung on in the hope that we might just see a return of this kung-fu queen to form, or at the very least a return to Hong Kong productions. But it was not meant to be! Regardless, Cyndy looks great here and works with what she has available. Of course, both her and Richard Norton had already shared the screen a number of times over the years, and while they only get to trade kicks in the final fight, it's always great to see them on screen together with the pair last sharing the screen a couple of years prior in China O'Brien 2. Prolific television and film actor Robert Ginty of The Exterminator fame, cameos as an old friend of Rothrock who double-crosses her, but to be honest, I found Norton to be the strongest of all on-screen. The majority of the supporting cast, Asian or not, are mostly unknowns with fight choreographer Tanaka popping up as one of Norton's henchmen...
It's such a shame that both of these stars couldn't use their star-power to pull in a Hong Kong choreographer for Lady Dragon. Tanaka's basic choreography and repeated shots of impact just waste the talents of Cyndy and Richard – something that is pretty frustrating to fans like myself who know what they really can do. Of course, it wasn't helped by the weak direction of cinematographer-turned-director David Worth who went on to helm films like Chain Of Command, Shark Attack 2 & 3, and Fists Of Rage, to name but a few. Regardless, Lady Dragon isn't completely unwatchable and does give Rothrock and Norton plenty of screen time to share, which is always a pleasure for me!
Overall: A product of it's time, Lady Dragon is typical of 90s American martial arts flicks complete with dodgy score and cheesy script, that ultimately wastes the fighting talents of its main stars!
LADY IRON MONKEY
(Hong Kong 2008)
Original Title: Zui Hou Nu (aka) Ape Girl; Fighting Justice
Directed by Chen Chi Hwa Produced by Hui Tak Jan, Chan Lung Jun Action by Wang Tai Lang Starring: Gam Fung Ling, Chen Sing, Lo Lieh, Miao Tian, Lee Man Tai, Shao Lo Shen Lin, Yuen Si Wo, Danny Chow Yun Kin Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy
Rating - 3 / 5
Synopsis: A girl raised by apes falls for a prince who is secretly using her kung fu for his personal gain. (84 Mins)
Views: A wild ape-girl is captured and taken from the wild by an old kung-fu master. He begins to train her in martial arts, as well as how to read and speak Chinese. One day, the ape-girl makes her way into a birthday party where she finds herself in a spot of bother and soon meets the 4th Prince. Stealing her heart and manipulating her, the 4th Prince convinces her to help him steal the current Emperor's Will so that he can alter it to make himself the next in line. Having fallen for the 4th Prince, the ape-girl learns of a solution that can help her turn into a real girl if she soaks her body in it – something that works for the most part, although leaves her with a large tail. After catching the 4th Prince with another woman and finding out about his evil ways now he is the Emperor, the ape-girl must use her deadly tail-kung-fu to take him down and help make things right!
Retitled as Lady Iron Monkey for obvious reasons, this film is better suited to its original title of Ape Girl as it bears no connection at all to the the original classic starring Chen Kuan Tai (or even that of the Donnie Yen smash hit). For starters, the titular character is little a humanoid monkey more akin to what you would see in any amount of Monkey King movies, even jumping through the trees (unconvincingly) with her little monkey brothers who all look like they are just wearing furry pyjamas. This was to be one of the last films penned by Hou Cheng, the very same man who directed the crazy Shaolin Invincibles and the absolutely bonkers, Zodiac Fighters (of which he also wrote), so those two examples should give you a fair idea of how nutty Ape Girl actually is. The wonderful, and often over-looked, Chen Chi Hwa is at the helm and although it may not be one of his finest moments, he seems to have had fun dishing out yet another wild kung-fu comedy jammed in-between Jackie Chan's Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin and Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu in 1978, and The 36 Crazy Fists and Dance Of Death which were both shot the same year as this. While Jackie may have helped with the choreography for the aforementioned 1979 titles, it would be popular kung-fu actor and choreographer Wang Tai Lang who took the reigns of action-director on this. Having starred in classics like One Armed Boxer Vs The Flying Guillotine, Flash Legs, Phantom Kung Fu, Militant Eagle, and Spiritual Kung Fu, 1979 proved to be a busy (and final) year for Wang starring in no less than 8 productions over the course of 12 months, including Dance Of Death for director Chen. His work on Lady Iron Monkey would also become the last of his career and although it could hardly be hailed as his swan song, Wang still manages to provide enough entertaining fights with plenty of energy and impressive moves. While it will never go down as one of the greatest kung-fu movies ever made, Lady Iron Monkey aka Ape Girl does have its moments and enough entertaining fights to keep fans happy. The final 25 minutes sees the titular heroine become a human due to a special potion, although it doesn't get rid of her tail. After learning a deadly new style from her master, the ape-girl returns to see the 4th Prince who has now become the king, and soon sees the error of his ways after he attempts to kill her and The 8 Heroes with a bomb. Surviving the attack, the ape-girl leads the heroes into battle as they take-on Chen Sing and Lo Lieh (who has suddenly went from assassin to ally of the Prince) in a fun and energetic finale.
Chin Fung Ling stars as the titular ape-girl in, what seems to be, one of only the two roles of her career alongside Iron Bridge Kung-Fu which was made the same year (and co-starred Wang Tai Lang who also choreographed). And although it's a pretty madcap role for her, I have to admit that Chin does entertain in a similar way that Polly Shang Kwan would do, and handles both the comedy and action side of things positively. I'm surprised she didn't star in more! The great Chen Sing stars as the scheming 4th Prince who manipulates the naïve heroine, and gets in on enough fight action to keep fans happy and kung-fu superstar Lo Lieh pops up as a Tibetan fighter who attempts to kill the Prince. Veteran Taiwanese actor Miao Tian, who starred in films such as Dragon Inn, A Touch Of Zen, Furious Slaughter, and Kung Fu Executioner, stars as her master and Lee Man Tai from Millionaires Express, Magnificent Warriors, Face Behind The Mask, continues his old beggar role as seen in Chen Chi Hwa's Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin and Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu. Jackie Chan Stunt Team member, Danny Chow Yun Kin, also appears as one of The 8 Heroes who makes a deal with Chen, and there's a host of other recognisable faces from Taiwanese cinema of the mid-late 70s...
Overall: Typically madcap in that Chen Chi Hwa way, Lady Iron Monkey is far from perfect but still has enough fun moments and good fights to keep fans happy!
(Hong Kong 1989)
Original Title: Shi Jie Da Shai 師姐大晒 (aka) The Blonde Fury; Above The Law 2: The Blonde Fury; Female Reporter; Born To Fight; Righting Wrongs 2
Directed by Mang Hoi, Corey Yuen Kwai Produced by Sammo Hung, Corey Yuen Kwai Action by Mang Hoi, Corey Yuen Kwai Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Elizabeth Lee, Chin Siu Ho, Mang Hoi, Ronny Yu, Billy Chow, Jeff Falcon, Vincent Lyn, Roy Chiao, Wu Ma, Tai Bo, Chung Fat, Teddy Yip, Lee Chi Kit, Yuen Mui, James Tien Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Martial Arts / Action / Comedy
Rating - 4 / 5
Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Synopsis: Cynthia Rothrock's first leading role was also the first (and to this day, only) time a Western actress had lead billing in a Hong Kong film. Rothrock plays Cindy, the titular female reporter sent to investigate an unscrupulous newspaper editor (Ronny Yu). Teaming up with Elizabeth Lee (Long Arm of the Law Part 3), the two go up against a series of opponents played by some of the greatest “bad guy” actors in 80s cinema, including Billy Chow (Fist Of Legend), Jeff Falcon (Outlaw Brothers, Six String Samurai), and Vincent Lyn (Tiger Cage). Mang Hoi handles directing duties here, but much like Yes, Madam, this was a collaborative effort between Mang Hoi and Corey Yuen, and just as in that film the results are magnificent – Mang Hoi's graceful and acrobatic choreography fusing perfectly with Corey Yuen's hard-hitting style. But the star here is Cynthia Rothrock, and the film deservedly secured her position as one of the top action stars of her era. Eureka Classics is proud to present Lady Reporter in itsUK debut on Blu-ray from a brand new 2K restoration. (88 Mins)
Phoenix Distribution German DVD Synopsis: She risks everything - even her life - to prevent the chief prosecutor from being taken out by the city's top banker. Relentlessly and mercilessly she is on the trail of the gangsters. Only with iron fists as a deadly weapon, she fights a merciless fight. The gangsters put top hit men on Cynthia. Again and again she manages to escape the attempts on her life and relentlessly pursues her goal: to settle accounts with the city's gangsters once and for all... (88 Mins)
Joy Sales HK VCD Synopsis: When celebrating the smashing of a big New York counterfeit ring, the G-men find out that the top criminal, Wong, has slipped away. Black belt Cynthia Rothrock is ordered to come to Hong Kong to get Wong. In Hong Kong,Wong goes into the printing business. Ostensibly, he publishes newspaper. But his real business is still the forging of banknotes. Cynthia gets a job as a reporter in Wong's company but is alerted Hong Kong police and ask her to keep off. Cynthia happens to know her friend's father is the prosecutor in Wong's trial. She tries to help but Wong gets off by poisoning the prosecutor. Now Cynthia is desperated. The police want her back to New York while she wants to get Wong herself... (88 Mins)
American Imperial UK VHS Synopsis: Cynthia Rothrock – America's greatest martial arts star is back in another great adventure (and a whole mess of trouble). Cindy Law (Cynthia Rothrock) a reporter for the Hong Kong Times, is covering a story involving the trial for fraud, of one of the territory's leading bankers. Cindy's investigations uncover more than she first bargained for, resulting in two 'hitmen' being assigned to kill Cindy and her friends. This will make one hell of a story – if she can survive. (85 Mins)
Views: While covering a story involving a twisted story of fraud, Cindy finds herself getting pulled deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of a criminal organisation who send out their best fighters to take her down. In turn, the blonde fury must fight for her life and protect those around her while putting a stop to the evil gang boss, and scoring her big story! It was 30 years ago when I walked into my local Xtravision store and saw the video box for Above The Law 2: The Blonde Fury on the shelf. It was designed very like the American Imperial VHS release of Above The Law (featuring Rothrock and Yuen Biao of course), of which I was a huge fan, and I just had to get my hands on it. Much to my surprise, this (then) 15 year old was more than a little confused as to the lack of connection between both movies. Of course, I quickly learned that it was marketed as a sequel by name only (and lead actress) and soon went on to own multiple versions of the movie with my love for this film quickly growing with each viewing. And now, thanks to this incredible 2K restoration Blu-ray release from Eureka Video, this wonderful Hong Kong movie has never looked better! A film of many titles (and edits) Lady Reporter has been described by many as 'Frankenstein project' or 'Golden Harvest cut-n-paste' which is most likely in reference to the films of a certain Godfrey Ho. While this is true to some degree on a visual level – with the often hilarious changes of Cynthia's hairstyles between scenes, plot points, and change in direction – it doesn't really take away from the fact that this is one of Rothrock's finest hours, and a damn good martial-arts action-comedy at the end of the day. Some of these reasons included Cindy's clash of schedules, with Golden Harvest shifting her between this and China O'Brien for reshoots and additional scenes in Lady Reporter. Another was the studios demands to add more action to the film on hearing that Cindy was about to get her first starring Hollywood role against a certain Sylvester Stallone (a film that never did come to light); going on to bring producer and choreographer Corey Yuen Kwai in to direct, overshadowing Mang Hoi as the original director which no doubt caused some negativity between them. But these things certainly don't detract from the film's true entertainment value...
There's a complete and utter wildness to Lady Reporter, which is probably down to the script by SamChi Leung – writer of the Danny Lee directed comedy Oh, My Cops!, Andy Lau's Three Against The World, Lam Ching Ying's Vampire Vs Vampire and Magic Cop, and Yuen Biao's self-directed Kid From Tibet – and the uneven style of first-time director, Mang Hoi. Often mistaken for Yuen Biao by many; a fact I was guilty of myself in my younger years until I saw them star alongside each other in Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain – this popular Hong Kong star started life in the film industry as a child actor in the early 1970s. This included roles in films such as The Price Of Love, Human Goddess, The Young Avenger, Fist Of The Unicorn, and Bruce Lee's Enter The Dragon. Roles would follow in classics such as Executioners From Shaolin, He Has Nothing But Kung Fu, and Fatal Flying Guillotines, as well as The Shaolin Plot and Iron Fisted Monk alongside Sammo Hung of whom he would continue to work with for a few decades after. From Enter The Fat Dragon to Warriors Two, Heart Of The Dragon to Millionaires Express, and Pedicab Driver to Gambling Ghost, Mang Hoi would work with Hung in front of and behind the scenes time and time again, with Sammo producing this and guest starring in Hoi's second (and only other) directed piece, The Tantana. As well as helming Lady Reporter, Mang Hoi not only served as one of the films fight choreographers, but also starred as one of its leads – a pretty incompetent reporter who sticks close to Cindy and manages to stumble across a big story. As always, no matter what role he may be playing when in front of the camera, Hoi does a pretty good job and entertains on every level. Interestingly enough, it was said that Mang Hoi and Cynthia Rothrock dated for a period in the late 80s and would have first met on the set of Yes, Madam! - Cindy's amazing Hong Kong cinema debut that put her alongside the Oscar winning and hugely talented Michelle Yeoh. Soon after that, the pair would both star in Sammo's epic Millionaires Express, with Hoi next lending his talents as an action-choreographer on Righting Wrongs where Cindy would play another incredible role, with Lady Reporter proving to be their fourth and final project together...
As one of the worlds most famous martial artists and action heroines, it's fair to say that Cynthia Rothrock needs no introduction. Before starring as the Lady Reporter, Cindy had appeared in the aforementioned titles with Mang Hoi as well as starring in the critically panned indie flick 24 Hours To Midnight (quite possibly her very first role), Wong Jing's hugely entertaining action-comedy Magic Crystal, the fun Fight To Win alongside Richard Norton, Corey Yuen Kwai's No Retreat No Surrender 2, and the Jackie Chan produced Top Squad; aka The Inspector Wears Skirts with Sibelle Hu. While her characters had shown hints of humour in the majority of the films mentioned, Lady Reporter would call for Rothrock to step a little more out of her comfort zone and deliver a more comedic role than she was used to – but I liked it and think that she did a great job for the most part. This must have been the year that she wanted to try something different, as Cindy would continue the comedy persona for Lau Kar Wing's City Cops/Beyond The Law before winding it back for pretty much every other film project that was to follow. I think the fact that she was able to have a bit more fun in this role helps in making it one of my all-time favourite Cynthia Rothrock movies, and I would've loved to have seen her do more comedy films if I'm honest. Of course, by the mid-90s Cindy had left the Hong Kong scene and headed back West for a shot at the American film market where all of her films, albeit for Fast Getaway 1 & 2, saw her cast in very serious or generally straight-laced roles. Personally, I feel that her last good movie was Outside The Law in 2002, with her last great movie being Sworn To Justice in '96 that saw her star alongside Kurt McKinney and Brad Dourif. Regardless, there's at least 30 strong titles in Rothrock's filmography that are highly entertaining in their own right, and Lady Reporter is one of the best among them. It's a toss-up between Lady Reporter and Return Engagement (with Andy Lau) as to which was the first film that introduced me to the lovely Elizabeth Lee. Racking up 25 films in just under a decade, Lee made her debut in Wong Jing's rom-com The Romancing Star 2 and starred in 5 other titles that year including Picture Of A Nymph, He Who Chases After The Wind, How To Pick Up Girls, The Greatest Lover, and the wonderful Gunmen from Kirk Wong. Just as many titles would follow in 1989 while shooting Lady Reporter, with things eventually slowing things down until her retirement in 1996 with films such as Long Arm Of The Law 3, Widow Warriors, Sword Stained With Royal Blood, and Organized Crime & Triad Bureau among many more. Both ladies are joined by the aforementioned Mang Hoi – who is highly enjoyable as the energetic and acrobatic fellow-reporter, Hai – and the wonderful Chin Siu Ho; the man who should have been a much bigger star than he was! The handsome kick-ass hero stars as a C.I.D. agent who tries to befriend the girls by posing as an insurance salesman, before eventually joining them to go up against the bad guys. As with many Hong Kong stars from this era, Chin started his career in the industry starring in a number of Shaw Brothers classics like Ten Tigers Of Kwantung, Two Champions Of Shaolin, Legend Of The Fox, House Of Traps, and Demon Of The Lute, as well as many others. While a few modern roles followed, it would be the Sammo Hung produced Mr. Vampire that would really launch him to the next level. Films like The Seventh Curse, In The Blood, Killer's Nocturne, and Edge Of Darkness, and more vampire titles would follow before his role here in Lady Reporter, with the star keeping himself busy between film and television – making quite the impression in movies like New Kids In Town, Visa To Hell, The Vengeance Of Six Dragon, Mr. Vampire '92, The Beheaded 1000, as well as Jet Li's Tai Chi Master and Fist Of Legend where he held his own next to the popular superstar. As with most Hong Kong stars, his career started to wobble in the late 1990s (even though he was continuously busy), and it would be almost a decade before things started to look up again with roles in films such as A Battle Of Wits, Revenge: A Love Story, The Lost Bladesman, and the incredible Rigor Mortis which hailed back to his vampire busting days and really helped push him back out there!
The wonderful Ronny Yu leads the bad guys of this action-comedy and does a fantastic job in playing the intimidating evil counterfeiter, Boss Huang. Although he has appeared in films such as Tsui Hark's Don't Play With Fire, Chicken & Duck Talk, and The Great Pretenders, as well as his own films such as Legacy Of Rage, Bless This House, and China White, Yu is recognised more-so as a hugely successful director, loved by fans and critics alike for his work such as The Postman Strikes Back, Legacy Of Rage, The Bride With White Hair 1 & 2, Phantom Lover, Jet Li's Fearless, and Saving General Yang; not to mention his Hollywood projects such as Warriors Of Virtue, Bride Of Chucky, The 51st State, and very fun Freddy Vs Jason. Ronny is backed by some of the finest villains ever to pop-up in the Hong Kong films of the late 80s, including the great Billy Chow, Vincent Lyn, and wushu wonder boy, Jeff Falcon. There's also a kick-ass Thai fighter who gets to trade some amazing moves with Chin Siu Ho and Cindy herself, but trying to find out who this guy is (or anything about him) is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. 1987 was a breakout year for Billy Chow who was taken under Sammo's wing and cast in Eastern Condors, Dragons Forever, and Paper Marriage which really helped put him on the map. Soon after that, Chow would keep his star lit with brilliant roles in Sammo Hung films such as the incredible Pedicab Driver and License To Steal, as well as Magic Cop, High Risk, Fist Of Legend, Future Cops, Robotrix, and many more that would secure his position as one of Hong Kong's cinemas finest. After a couple of smaller roles in Brotherhood and Code Of Honour, Vincent Lyn got to show his worth in the fantastic Tiger Cage alongside Donnie Yen, Jacky Cheung, and Simon Yam. Lady Reporter/The Blonde Fury came soon after, along with a brief role in Yuen Cheung Yan's little seen action-thriller, Live Hard (I wonder what inspired that!). 1990 was a better year that saw Lyn appear in films such as King Of The Kickboxers, Undeclared War, and the brilliant Outlaw Brothers from Frankie Chan, with the following year proving to be just as busy. From a solid role in Jackie Chan's Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor to Sammo Hung's Touch & Go, Eastern Heroes/Fury In Red to Robotrix, Vincent Lyn had the looks and the moves to secure his position as one of Hong Kong cinemas go-to villains. But then, he just kinda stopped! Since the turn-of-the-century the handsome martial-artist has starred in (or appeared in) a handful of productions, and has recently been joining Frank Djeng audio commentaries for labels such as 88 Films and Eureka Video, on films that he has starred in – including their release of this one. And then there is, of course, the amazing Jeff Falcon who had already impressed with his debut in the Jackie Chan produced Inspector Wears Skirts/Top Squad and its fast follow-up, Operation Pink Squad. 1989 would keep him busy with decent roles in sequels for both of the aforementioned movies, along with this and Frankie Chan's brutally brilliant, Burning Ambition (which really needs the Blu-ray treatment). A year later, Jeff would join Cynthia Rothrock once more in the underrated Prince Of The Sun, and again with Vincent Lyn in Outlaw Brothers as well as a stint in Joyce Godenzi's fantastic, She Shoots Straight, before taking things a bit easier over the next few years with films such as Caged Beauties, Rape In Public Sea, Angel Kickboxers, and Frankie Chan's hilarious Oh! Yes Sir!! - to name but a few. Jeff would leave Hong Kong soon after, with his next project being the highly anticipated and critically praised, comic book martial-arts flick, Six String Samurai – a wonderful piece that recently saw a restoration and re-release courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome (check out my review elsewhere on the site). Unfortunately, due to the films failure to light-up the box office and make Jeff a household name, the Falcon would soon fly far from the film industry; disheartened at the results of his final piece, never to be seen again. Thankfully though, and much like his villainous co-stars, Jeff gave fans plenty of incredible moments to enjoy over and over again with many of the aforementioned movies – and his role here in Lady Reporter is a great example why.
The rest of the cast is a mix of regular faces from this period of Hong Kong cinema including the late Wu Ma as a bumbling newspaper editor, Tai Bo as another of his reporters, the great Melvin Wong as yet another police chief, and the wonderful Roy Chiao as Prosecutor Yu – doting father to Elizabeth Lee's character. The always enjoyable Chung Fat almost steals the show as the thug who ends up with a live-rat in his mouth, with Ka Lee, Yuen Miu, Lee Chi Kit, and Chow Gam Kong helping to fill out the list of henchmen, among many others. Teddy Yip pops up as a judge, while the great James Tien plays Chiao's assistant prosecutor. As mentioned before, the legendary Corey Yuen Kwai directs a small portion of the film as well as some of the action scenes. Between himself and Mang Hoi, the pair deliver a wonderful collection of fight scenes and are aided by the talents of Chin Kar Lok, Hsiao Ho, and Siu Tak Foo – all of whom stunt double throughout. Some of these martial-arts highlights for me include Cindy's infiltration of the printing press that leads to the hugely exciting fight on the scaffolding – a fight that the late Brad Allen paid homage to in the hit Marvel movie, Shang Chi & The Legend Of The Ten Rings. I love seeing this fight over and over again which gives Cindy the chance to bust some amazing moves, and everyone involved to deliver some incredible stunt-work. Another is her hilarious fight against Billy Chow in their home – a fun but powerful showdown that sees Cindy suffer the powerful blows of the champion fighter, and her equally impressive (and painful) looking fight against the massive Thai boxer, who hadjust given Chin Siu Ho a run for his money. Eagle eyed viewers should be able to spot that this fight was filmed on the Dragons Forever set (at the Golden Harvest studios), which makes good use of its surroundings and pulls off some moves very similar to that seen in the hit movie featuring the Three Dragons. Then, of course, there's the final showdown that sees Ms. Rothrock take on a gang of thugs on a large pyramid of rope, before going up against the wonderful Vincent and Jeff in a wonderful display of moves and weaponry in order to save their friend (Miss Lee). It doesn't take long for the rescue mission to, literally, go down another road which involves a crazed Ronny Yu driving a truck with everyone but Mang Hoi hanging from it,but fight fans will already feel pleased with what was offered beforehand. Of course there are many other moments of greatness and fun to be had throughout, and it wouldn't be a Sammo Hung/Corey Yuen Kwai movie if there wasn't plenty of wild stunts and full-contact on offer; a couple of things of which there is definitely plenty of...
At the time, and quite possibly still to this day, Lady Reporter was the first fully-fledged Hong Kong action movie with a Western lead, but both Golden Harvest and Boho Films knew what kind of star they had on their hands, considering their past success with Cindy in films like Yes, Madam!, Inspector Wears Skirts, Millionaires Express, No Retreat No Surrender 2, and the incredible Righting Wrongs. Without showing any disrespect to Mang Hoi as a film-maker, I can only imagine how much more streamlined and complete the film may have been had Corey Yuen handled the whole thing – or even, just perhaps, Sammo Hung himself. With that said, Lady Reporter (in whatever edit and title) still stands as a highly enjoyable slice of 80s action cinema for me and it makes me very happy to see it receive the care, attention, and restoration that it has with this Blu-ray release from Eureka Video. This is the 4th version of the film to join my collection in over 3 decades, so if that doesn't tell you how much enjoyment I get from it, then I don't know what will!
Overall: Hugely enjoyable and packed with some of Rothrock's best fight scenes, Lady Reporter is well worth checking out and a classic piece of Hong Kong action cinema!
Eureka Video Blu-ray Extras: 2K Restoration, Hong Kong Theatrical Version (88 Mins), Export Version (85 Mins), Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng & Vincent Lyn (Theatrical Version), Audio Commentary by Mike Leeder & Arne Venema (International Version), Select Scene Commentary with Cynthia Rothrock & Frank Djeng, Interviews with Cynthia Rothrock & Mang Hoi, Trailers
Phoenix Distribution DVD Extras: Trailer, Hong Kong Version (84 Mins), International Version (85 Mins)
American Imperial VHS Trailers: Above The Law, Miracles, Angel Town, Death Cage
Watch my unboxing video of this Eureka release HERE
Get your copy HERE
(Hong Kong 1972)
Original Title: Tie Zhang Xuan Feng Tui (aka) Deep Thrust
Directed by Huang Feng Produced by Raymond Chow Action by Sammo Hung Starring: Angela Mao Ying. Chang Yi, Pai Ying, Sammo Hung, Oh Kyung Ah, Liu Ah Na, Chin Yuet Sang, Wong Fung, Yeung Wai, Wilson Tong Reviewing: Eureka UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Kung-Fu / Drama
Rating - 3.7 / 5
Eureka Blu-ray Synopsis: Angela Mao and director Huang Feng (The Shaolin Plot) were a superstar pairing that produced an incredible series of top tier kung-fu classics including Deadly China Doll, When Taekwondo Strikes, and the two films presented here – Lady Whirlwind and Hapkido. Perhaps her most iconic film, Lady Whirlwind(bizarrely re-titled as Deep Thrust in the US, to capitalise on the success of Deep Throat, which probably made its tag lines- “The Deadly Stroke of Bare Hand Combat” and “Mistress of the Death Blow” - a tad misleading) stars Mao as a deadly fighter out for revenge on the man who wronged her sister (played by Shaw Brothers veteran Chang Yi). After tracking the man down, she finds he is on his own vengeful path against a gang of Japanese thugs and agrees to help keep him alive – as long as she gets to take her revenge when it's all over! Eureka Classics is proud to present Lady Whirlwind on home video for the first time ever in the UK from a stunning new 2K digital restoration. (89 Mins)
Views: In the 40 years since this film was first made, I never had the pleasure of watching it until Eureka released this gorgeously presented 2K restored version alongside Hapkido – another Huang Feng directed film made the same year as this, which also stars the great Angela Mao Ying and Sammo Hung. Like most kung-fu dramas of this era, Lady Whirlwind came from a period when the genre was still trying to figure out just what it could do. This had been kicked-off by the late, great Jimmy Wang Yu only a couple of years earlier with The Chinese Boxer – quickly followed by Lo Wei's Big Boss and Fist Of Fury. And while the world had their eyes on Bruce Lee, whose movies were coming from the newly launched Golden Harvest studios, Raymond Chow was hiring even more new talent to dish out as many cheap and cheerful kung-fu movies as they possibly could (most of which were highly entertaining); in essence, helping to pioneer a new movement in Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema that opened the doors for many new stars and amazing talent. It's worth keeping that in mind when watching a film such as Lady Whirlwind as it so often carries moments of crudeness on a production level, or quite openly shows fight scenes where we can clearly see some hits not even coming close to impact. Simply put, directors and choreographers such as Huang Feng and Sammo Hung were refining their styles, reworking their ways after decades of wuxia action, and bringing something a little different to the screen that would quickly become one of the most loved genres of all time!
Probably more recognised internationally as Bruce Lee's tough little sister in Enter The Dragon, Taiwanese born Mao Ying began her martial life in the Chinese Opera, as many stars of that era would have done. After a brief role in Gwan Jing Leung's Eight Robbers in 1968, Mao was signed on with a new Hong Kong movie studio called Golden Harvest where she would star in a host of classics for directors such as Lo Wei, Huang Feng, and King Hu with films such as The Angry River, Hapkido, When Taekwondo Strikes, The Fate Of Lee Khan, and many more with Mao Ying going on to star in a total of 45 titles through to the early 80s before retiring from the screen – although she would make an appearance in James Wu's Mr. Vampire in 1990 (no, not the Ricky Lau original) and Mark Long's Witch Edited in 1992 before leaving the film business altogether. Mao would then move to the US in a bid to devote herself to her family and open a number of restaurants. Of course, Lady Whirlwind was one such film that helped propel her to stardom and quite often appears in film fans lists of Angela Mao's top ten. Shot between South Korea and Hong Kong alongside Hapkido in 1972, the story is quite typical of many films around then focusing on the theme of revenge. After a young man called Ling Shih Hua is beaten and left for dead by a gang of Japanese thugs, he is nursed back to health by a young woman who soon falls for him. Once healed, Ling vows to take revenge and sets out on his mission. Meanwhile, another young lady called Tien Li Chun has arrived in town in search of the very man that jilted her sister, causing her to take her life. That man was Ling, and the pair soon cross paths on their search for revenge. Explaining his own mission of vengeance, Ling begs her to spare him until he gets his revenge to which Tien reluctantly agrees – eventually offering to help him so that she can exact her own revenge quicker. But in the end, as they two heroes come to blows, Ling is saved by his new girlfriend who begs the feisty female fighter for forgiveness...
The wonderful Chang Yi stars as the man caught in the middle, Ling Shi Hao. Many say that this was somewhat of a rare thing to see Yi play the good guy when, in fact, he had done so numerously throughout his career. It just so happens that his roles as a bad guy stood out a lot more (and were more often in the latter side of his work). By the time he had appeared in Lady Whirlwind, Chang Yi had already starred in over 20 productions since his debut role in The Thundering Sword only 5 years earlier. Fast cementing his place in the Shaw Brothers studios, Yi starred in classics such as King Cat, The Bells Of Death, and Brothers Five as well as Zatoichi & The One-Armed Swordsman, The Fast Sword, Bandits From Shantung, and many more. Of course, the latter would see him star alongside the legendary Sammo Hung who would also double-up as the martial arts director – a dual role he would continue in Lady Whirlwind the very same year. With the action on offer here, it's fair to assume that young Sammo may have taken some inspiration from the Shaw Brothers hit King Boxer, which would have come out earlier that year. Either him or director Huang Feng. Focusing less on martial arts styles and going for a hasher street-fighter type, basher style of choreography, Sammo delivers a host of fun beat-downs that come pretty rapidly and often prove to be quite enjoyable. The man himself plays a pestering henchman who gets more than a few fights to enjoy, each of which see him taking on one embarrassing wound after another until Mao puts him down for good after she crushes him in amongst some trees. He plays the sister of wicked brothel madam and whip-cracker Tiao Ta Niang, played by Anna Liu Ah Na in (what seems to be) her one and only role. Both siblings are part of Tung Ku's gang; a brutal tyrant played by the wonderful Pai Ying who made his feature film debut in King Hu's classic Dragon Inn. Over the years he would work with many of his co-stars and director Huang Feng in titles such as The Invincible Eight, The Angry River, Bandits From Shantung etc, and much like Chang Yi, Pai had starred in a good 20 productions before Lady Whirlwind. 1972 would see him star in no less than 10 films, one of which was the awesome Hapkido and Pai would quickly go on to be one of the most recognisable and sought after stars of Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema from there on in – starring in a number of King Hu classics before moving into the Shaw Brothers studios, as well as stealing the scenes in a number of independent flicks such as Militant Eagle, 72 Desperate Rebels, and A Fistful Of Talons. Working right through until the turn-of-the-century, Pai Ying also showed up in many modern Hong Kong hits including Royal Warriors, Braveful Police, Dragon From Russia, and Born Wild with Louis Koo and Daniel Wu. The fun Chin Yuet Sang also makes a fun appearance as a Japanese fighter, and regular faces of the time – such as Yeung Wai, Wilson Tong, Law Kei, Martin Chui, and Cham Siu Hung – help fill out the remaining cast, with director Huang Feng making a cameo as a casino owner.
I quite enjoyed Lady Whirlwind. Although he only directed 14 in all, Huang Feng has certainly delivered a number of classic titles over the years, and many of which saw the participation of Sammo Hung and Angela Mao Ying in one way or another. From The Angry River to Hapkido, and When Taekwondo Strikes to The Tournament, it's hard to deny that any of Huang's films don't offer something wonderful or entertaining in their running time. Cliched and typical to the modern viewer, Lady Whirlwind is a genuine classic of kung-fu cinema and Mao Ying's career, and while it may have its flaws, the film still proves to be as exciting today as it did upon release. Lady Whirlwind has never looked better than it does now thanks to this 2K restoration, which makes it even more enjoyable to see it as it was intended!
Overall: Packed full of great kung-fu battles and classic clichés, Lady Whirlwind gives Angela Mao Ying a great showcase for her talents and is worth checking out!
Eureka Blu-ray Extras: 2K Restoration, Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng & Michael Worth, Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng & Bobby Samuels, Audio Commentary with Samm Deighan, Interview with Angela Mao Ying & Thomas King (Mao's Son), Alternate English Credits, Stills Gallery, Trailers, Radio Spot
Watch my unboxing video of this Eureka Video release HERE
(USA/South Africa 1989)
(aka) Soldier Of Fortune; Lazer Mission
Directed by BJ Davis Produced by Hans Kuhle Sr. Action by Jannie Wienand Starring: Brandon Lee, Ernest Borgnine, Debi Monahan, Richard Cox, Graham Clarke, Werner Pochath, Karl Johnson, Richard Cox Reviewing: Amazon Prime UK Release Genres: Action / Adventure / Comedy
Rating - 1.5 / 5
Synopsis: Mercenaries, diamonds and laser weapons fill the story of this South African set action-adventure starring Brandon Lee. (84 Mins)
Views: Hired by the CIA to find a German laser scientist (played by veteran Ernest Borgnine), agent Michael 'Mercenary' Gold (Brandon Lee) must get him safely back to the US from South Africa before the Soviets get their hands on him. Famously ridiculed and held by many as one of the greatest bad movies eve made, Laser Mission has the privilege of having the gorgeous Brandon Lee in the starring role – yet at the same time, proves to be the worst film on the late stars short filmography...
Director BJ Davis, who has been a stuntman in Hollywood for many years and has directed a number of television and movie projects, makes sure that Laser Mission falls right into the same category as the American Ninja films - a series of which saw BJ Davis work on part 2, as well as many of the Cannon Films starring Chuck Norris. And in knowing that, Laser Mission could certainly have been part of the Cannon catalogue and even starred the likes of Michael Dudikoff, David Bradley or even Norris himself. At this stage of his career, the young Brandon Lee had only really appeared in Kung Fu: The Movie and starred as the lead in Ronny Yu's awesome Legacy Of Rage, so I'm sure he was open to any leading-man opportunities and probably thought that the James Bond-inspired Laser Mission was going to be a hit. Unfortunately for him, it was far from it!
In a nutshell, Laser Mission is just fucking dreadful, although in a way that you can't help but enjoy it. From its comical and god-awful script, to its dire and hilarious bad acting, the film is 90 minutes of unintentional laughs that come across like Naked Gun meets Moonraker - complete with ridiculous action scenes and lots of nipples. Brandon comes across like a young Bruce Campbell for the most if it, delivering many lines in an exaggerated tone - often trying to imitate his father (which was no doubt pressured by the director). While I do like Brandon Lee and wish we could have had him for a few decades more, I do think he is totally overrated and is only saved by his charm, half-decent moves, and the fact that he's the son of the infamous Bruce Lee. This is definitely not his finest acting moment by any means though, and he thankfully redeemed himself with what was to follow such as the fantastic, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Rapid Fire, and of course, The Crow. I must also mention how Laser Mission is haunted by a repeated rock song called Mercenary Man; a number sung by David Knopfler (the brother of Dire Straits leading man Mark Knopfler) which almost sounds like it's sung for laughs, and often plays when Brandon appears on-screen. While it may be packed full of action, plenty of stunts, explosions and hand-to-hand combat, the film is so poorly directed that all of the above has little-to-no impact when it comes about. Laser Mission is fun, but not in an intentional way, and that's what makes it work. If you are a major fan of bad movies, then you'll love it - otherwise, don't be wasting your time.
Overall: This is one flick you really need to see to believe how bad it is, the best thing about Laser Mission is it's awesome poster!
THE LAST BLOOD
(Hong Kong 1991)
Original Title: Ging Tin 12 Siu See 惊天十二小时 (aka) Hard Boiled 2; Hard Boiled 3; 12 Hours Of Terror; Police Protectors; 12 Hours To Die
Directed by Wong Jing Produced by Eric Tsang, Wallace Cheung Action by Blacky Ko Starring: Andy Lau, Alan Tam, Leung Kar Yan, Eric Tsang, May Lo, Nat Chan, Jackson Lau, Chui Sau Lai, Chin Ho, Law Shu Kei Reviewing: 88 Films Blu-ray Release Genres: Action / Comedy / Thriller
Rating - 4 / 5
88 Films UK Blu-ray Synopsis: When a high-ranking Tibetan Lama is wounded by terrorists, only a transfusion of his ultra rare blood type can save him. Heroic Hong Kong cops Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs, The Great Wall) and Alan Tam (Armour Of God) must protect the unlikely donor, Eric Tsang (Lucky Stars series) from the assassins out to kill him. Shot on stunning Singapore locations, The Last Blood also features former kung fu icon Leung Kar-yan (Warriors Two). From Hong Kong hitmaker Wong Jing (City Hunter, God Of Gamblers) comes a fast-paced action thriller showcasing three of the genre's brightest stars. (94 Mins)
German DVD Synopsis: During a flight together with the revolutionary religious leader Dakka Lama, the Hong Kong gangster Ben learns the incredible truth. His girlfriend Linda and the Dakka Lama are of the same blood and, although Linda was born 60 years later, had the same hour of birth and were to experience the same fate. Ben is sceptical. Only when the two are shot as they leave the airport and critically injured, do his doubts disappear. Only both of them can be saved with a blood transfusion. But their common blood type, “P”, is very rare, and Detective Stone and Ben only have eight hours to search for the three people in Singapore who have this blood type. (90 Mins)
Eastern Heroes UK VHS Synopsis: Small-time hood Andy Lau makes the ultimate mistake of travelling aboard the same plane as the Daka Lama, for in an assassination attempt by a Japanese suicide squad both the Daka Lama and Andy's girlfriend are badly wounded. Both victims need a transfusion of the same, extremely rare, blood group, but time is running out as the terrorists target all possible blood donors. Andy joins forces with a hard boiled cop, Alan Tam, and the bullet count rapidly rises to a ballistic crescendo as trigger happy cops and terrorists battle it out. This hi-octane flick has all the trademarks and high body count of a John Woo movie. Action packed from the opening credits to the incredible fight finale, THE LAST BLOOD is a must for all Hong Kong film fans. (90 Mins)
Views: Also known as Twelve Hours Of Terror in its home territory, Police Protectors in the Philippines, Hard Boiled 2 in the UK, and Hard Boiled 3 in Germany, Wong Jing's wild action-thriller The Last Blood has long been a firm favourite among fans of Hong Kong cinema, and for good reason! Filmed completely in Singapore, The Last Blood tells the tale of an assassination attempt on the Daka Lama's life that leaves both him and a young woman called May fatally injured when the Red Army open fire in the airport. Apart from sharing the same horoscope, the two victims also share a rare blood type – one so rare that finding the correct donor proves to be a challenge in itself. With the help of the police and anti-terrorist agent Lui Tai, they eventually find the man they need to save the Daka Lama, but in order to do so, they must get past the ruthless Red Army, and May's hot-headed boyfriend who will do whatever he can to keep his girlfriend alive!
Written and directed by the highly prolific Wong Jing, a man who is one of my biggest inspirations as a film-maker and one of the biggest names in Hong Kong cinema still to this day. Starting off in the industry as a scriptwriter – a job he continues to do today with almost 200 writing credits to his name – Wong eventually made his directorial debut in 1981 with the fantastic Challenge Of The Gamesters; a Shaw Brothers production that kicked-off his love for gambling-action movies which would lead to his mega-hit God Of Gamblers and its many sequels, as well as others such as Casino Raiders, Casino Tycoon, The Conman, Kung Fu Mahjong, Mr. & Mrs. Gambler, and the From Vegas To Macau series which was, in some respects, a loose connection to the original God Of Gamblers movies. Of course, as the director of over 100 movies, Wong Jing has been responsible for many other amazing titles featuring stars such as Andy Lau, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, Sammo Hung, Anthony Wong, Jet Li, and Chow Sing Chi including Magic Crystal, Tricky Brains, Royal Tramp, Last Hero In China, Kung Fu Cult Master, Future Cops, City Hunter, High Risk, The Last Tycoon, Chasing The Dragon, and many, many more. Equally important is the fact that he has been behind almost twice as many titles as both producer and writer, and has often divided Western Hong Kong film fans who are unable to accept his cocktail of genres – a trait which I personally love – as well as the use of his cartoon-esque broad humour. I guess that's what helps make The Last Blood one of Wong Jing's more satisfying works as an action-comedy, as it refuses to veer into the 'mo lei tau' nonsensical style of humour he is well known for doing. Instead, Wong provides enough great laughs that naturally blend in with some strong drama and, of course, plenty of insane action that screams everything Hong Kong cinema is about.
This is also backed-up by the amazing cast that Wong puts on offer, starting with the delightful Andy Lau stars as the energetic boyfriend of May; a triad-wannabe who goes to some extreme lengths to save his girlfriend. Already an established star on the film and music scene, Andy Lau was quite possibly the hardest working actor in Hong Kong cinema around this period, often starring in one feature film a month with an incredible 15 films made in 1989, 12 in 1990, and another 12 more alongside this one in 1991 including titles such as Tricky Brains, The Tigers, Zodiac Killers, Lee Rock 1 & 2, and the incredible Saviour Of The Soul. Of course, many of these were written, produced, and/or directed by Wong Jing of whom Andy had already had a strong working relationship with, and even still to this day, starring in many of his aforementioned gambling films as well as titles such as Magic Crystal, The Crazy Companies, Crocodile Hunter, Future Cops, A True Mob Story, Mission Milano, and others. With over 170 film credits to his name since he began in the industry over 4 decades ago, Andy Lau rarely fails to entertain and roles such as this in The Last Blood prove why the fans loved his energy so much. Lau Tak Wah is joined by the wonderful Alan Tam once again, with the pair having shared the screen a number of times before in films such as Lucky Stars Go Places, Rich & Famous, The Dragon Family, The Fortune Code, Casino Raiders and its sequel No Risk, No Gain. I've always enjoyed Alan in this role. He oozes a certain coolness with his character, and really impresses is the gunfights and action sequences, making it look like he was a regular actor of the heroic bloodshed genre. While he had been acting since 1975, and mostly in rom-coms or drama-based films, Tam had appeared in a small number of action flicks including Jackie Chan's Armour Of God, and the aforementioned Lucky Stars Go Places and Rich & Famous alongside Lau, but he would really get into the nitty-gritty in the years that followed with a collection of titles between 1988 and 1991 such as The Dragon Family, Casino Raiders, No Risk No Gain, The Fortune Code, Pantyhose Hero, and The Last Blood. But out of all of them, it would have to be this, Lau Kar Wing's Dragon Family, and Sammo Hung's hugely underrated Pantyhose Hero that would really allow him to become a true action-hero.
They are joined by the incredible Leung Kar Yan – a legend of kung-fu cinema who began his time in the industry at the infamous Shaw Brothers studios. By the time he starred in The Last Blood, Leung had already appeared in almost 70 films including hits such as Five Shaolin Brothers, Eagle's Claw, Warriors Two, Thundering Mantis, The Victim, Legend Of A Fighter, Tiger Cage, and more, going on to make almost 100 more since then and is still going strong today. Interestingly enough, and considering just how vast both of their careers are, Leung and Andy Lau's first and only other film together up to this point would have been the fun Chang Cheh classic, The Shanghai Thirteen, with the brilliant action-thriller, The Tigers (also shot the same year as The Last Blood), being their final film as co-stars. That film was directed by the illustrious Eric Tsang, one of the producers of The Last Blood who is also cast as the comic relief of the film. Here, Tsang plays the whacky con-man who is the only surviving person in Singapore that carries the rare blood type needed to save the victims. Much like Leung Kar Yan, Tsang started his film career at Shaw Brothers, although as a stuntman and bit-player, and has went on to become one of Hong Kong's most recognisable faces with almost 300 film credits behind him as an actor, and 25 as director including The Challenger, Aces Go Places, Armour Of God, Fatal Vacation, The Tigers, and Ghost Punting – one of the most underrated sequels of the Lucky Stars Series of which he is probably more well known for in the west. Along with that, Eric has over 40 credits as producer, one of which would be The Last Blood which falls under the Movie Impact Limited banner. Launched in the late 80s by Wallace Cheung, Eric Tsang, and Alan Tam Movie Impact Limited – later known as Impact Films Investment Limited – were the production company behind many great Hong Kong classics with films such as Magic Crystal and Lam Ching Ying's Magic Cop, City Cops, Outlaw Brothers, Days Of Being Dumb, No Risk No Gain, The Fortune Code, A Moment Of Romance, and many more – eventually wrapping up less than a decade later.
The lovely May Lo – wife of canto-pop singer and popular actor Jacky Cheung of whom she met while working on the Clifton Ko movie, Devoted To You – stars as Andy's girlfriend and had previously shared the screen alongside him in films such as City Kids 1989, Return Engagement, and No Risk No Gain before going on to star with him in Wong Jing's Dances With Dragon and the star-studded charity film, The Banquet, although these would have been more cameo roles if anything. Handsome Taiwanese actor, Jackson Lou, makes his feature film debut here as one of the main villains of the piece and does a fantastic job as the Japanese killer. Interestingly enough, Lou would go on to play another Japanese villain in Jet Li's epic Fist Of Legend, with films such as Red Shield, Guns Of Dragon, and Hunting List, coming up in between projects. Since then, the actor has went on to appear in Danny Lee's Asian Connection, Stanley Tong's China Strike Force, Jackie Chan's First Strike and Vanguard, and the Taiwanese horror flick, Zombie 108, among many others. Starring alongside him is the intimidating Chin Ho, a regular Hong Kong bad guy of the time who made his debut alongside the great Alexander Lo Rei in 1989's Kung Fu Student. He would later rejoin Lo Rei for Triad Assassinator and starred alongside a few of his co-stars from The Last Blood over the years in films such as Island Of Fire, Prince Of Temple Street, and The Sting with Andy Lau, Guns Of Dragon with Jackson Lou, Lady Supercop with May Lo, and Ghost Punting with Eric Tsang where he really gets to let loose against Sammo Hung and the gang. Here, as Japanese assassin Kamakura, Ho pulls off a menacing performance and leaves a lasting impression as the killer with a birthmark who gives Andy a hard time. Prolific actor Law Shu Kei stars as the Daka Lama (clearly Wong Jing steering clear of causing any bother with the real Dali Lama), and the fun Nat Chan pops up in an extended cameo as Dr. Ferrari – the man put in charge of saving the Daka Lama's life...
The wild action sequences are handled by the late Blacky Ko Shou Liang, a popular film journeyman who also directed Andy Lau's action scenes in films such as Runaway Blues, City Kids 1989, Dragon In Jail, and Come Fly The Dragon – also another film directed by Eric Tsang. In The Last Blood, Ko delivers a host of crazed action scenes from bloody, high-frenzied gunfights to huge explosions, and plenty of painful looking stunts that show why Hong Kong cinema was a force to be reckoned with. He is backed by Li Hai Hsing, a popular kung-fu actor and choreographer who can be recognised for his roles in Alexander Lo Rei titles such as Shaolin Chastity Kung Fu, Shaolin Temple Against Lama, Ninja Vs Shaolin Guards, Ninja Kids, Ninja In The USA, Ninja The Final Duel, and many other fun action films including Demon Strike, Drunken Tai Chi, Legend Of Wisely, The Beheaded 1000, and more. While they produce many memorable moments that quite often risk the safety and lives of the stars and other actors, the film is quite often remembered for its explosive grand finale in a hospital that helped garner its re-titling of Hard Boiled 2 – a title originally coined by the UK based Eastern Heroes who would cash in on the success of the John Woo/Chow Yun Fat heroic bloodshed classic when they released The Last Blood as the first title of their video distribution venture back in the mid 1990s!
Overall: Wild, funny, and action packed, The Last Blood never fails to entertain and is a perfect example of why Hong Kong cinema of this period caught the attention of fans in the west!
88 Films Blu-ray Extras: Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng & John Chow, Trailers, Stills Gallery
German DVD Extras: Trailers
Eastern Heroes VHS Trailers: Holy Virgin Vs Evil Dead, Spooky Encounters
Get your copy HERE
Watch my unboxing video of this 88 Films release HERE
LAST HERO IN CHINA
(Hong Kong 1993)
Original Title: Wong Fei Hung V: Tit Gai Dau Ng Gung 黃飛鴻之鐵雞鬥蜈蚣 (aka) Claws Of Steel; Deadly China Hero, Iron Rooster Vs Centipede
Directed by Wong Jing Produced by Jet Li Action by Yuen Woo Ping Starring: Jet Li, Sharla Cheung Man, Gordon Liu, Leung Kar Yan, Dicky Cheung, Anita Yuen, Nat Chan, Kingdom Yuen, Linda Cheung, Dion Lam, Yuen Mo, Jack Wong, Jackson Ng Reviewing: 88 Films UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Martial-arts / Comedy / Historical
Rating - 4.5 / 5
88 Films UK Blu-ray Synopsis: Legendary kung fu master Wong Fei Hung (Jet Li) and his mischievous students unwittingly move their Po Chi Lam clinic to an undesirable location, but it becomes the least of their worries as they uncover skullduggery on the part of trading associations, a cult, and even the authorities. (110 Mins)
Nova Media Korean Blu-ray Synopsis: N/A
UK DVD Synopsis: Village girls have been mysterious going missing. The elders request Wong Fei Hung (Jet Li) to investigate. Wong does not want to get involved, but – a plot to kidnap women for the slave trade – a temple of corrupt monks – a dragon dance contest of the century – Wong Fei Hung soon finds he must fight the battle of his life to save his village and his reputation. Also known as Claws Of Steel and The Scarlet Claw. (90 Mins)
Made In Hong Kong UK VHS Synopsis: Jet Lee, Hong Kong's brightest martial arts star and inheritor of Bruce Lee's mantle, is Wong Fei Hung, folk hero and legendary kung fu master waging a one man war against corrupt and ruthless Boxer Society criminals in turn-of-the-century China. Scene after scene of breathtaking martial-arts acrobatics, choreographed by the redoubtable Shaw Brothers veteran Yuen Woo Ping (director of the Jackie Chan classics “Drunken Master” and “Snake In The Eagles Shadow”) combine with a truly charismatic performance from the incomparable Lee in Wong Jing's adrenalin-fueled action classic. A masterpiece in the tradition of Lee's groundbreaking “Once Upon A Time In China” and “Fong Sai Yuk” series. (105 Mins)
Views: Also known as Deadly China Hero, Claws Of Steel, Iron Rooster Vs Centipede, and even Wong Fei Hung 4 and 5 as an unofficial sequel to the popular Once Upon A Time In China series, Last Hero In China gives Jet Li the chance to relax and have fun with the legendary character that helped make him a household name, delivering a more light-hearted version of Wong Fei Hung which, at times, even makes a mockery of the very series he just left. Written and directed by Wong Jing, Last Hero In China tells the story of Wong Fei Hung and his wacky disciples who have just opened their new kung-fu school next to a brothel. While he struggles to come to terms with the situation and the lusty women coming onto his students, Wong soon uncovers a smuggling operation that is being conducted by a gang of perverted monks and corrupt officials who are kidnapping the very same girls. Through perseverance, wildly stylised kung fu, and total hilarity, Wong and his students set-out to put a stop to the abductions and to those who are behind it!
1993 was perhaps one of Jet Li's busiest and best years as an actor with no less than 6 productions on the go, all of which were fantasy period pieces. The first was the underrated Once Upon A Time In China 3, his final film for Tsui Hark before returning to the role for him in 1997 with Once Upon A Time In China & America. Jet would also make two highly regarded features with his regular cohort and Eastern Films partner, Corey Yuen Kwai, with the fantastic Fong Sai Yuk 1 & 2, two films that are often considered to be some of his finest. Yuen Woo Ping's wonderful Tai Chi Master was also on the cards, with Jet starring alongside the Oscar winning Michelle Yeoh and martial-arts powerhouse Chin Siu Ho, before Jet would sign up for a three-picture deal with the illustrious Wong Jing, one of which would begin production the following year – New Legend Of Shaolin; Wong's adaptation of the popular Japanese Lone Wolf & Cub series – with the other two being the incredible Kung Fu Cult Master and this, the hilarious and highly entertaining Last Hero In China. The film benefits from having plenty of slick fight choreography, courtesy of the legendary Yuen Woo Ping and his brother, Yuen Cheung Yan. Aside from the aforementioned Tai Chi Master made the same year, Woo Ping had already worked with Jet on Once Upon A Time In China 2 as the action-choreographer and would continue to do so again on titles such as Fist Of Legend, Black Mask, Fearless, and the underrated Hollywood action-fantasy The Forbidden Kingdom, that saw Jet star alongside Jackie Chan. While there are some moments of under-cranking during the fight scenes, something that was quite common with Yuen's work of this period, the action is often memorable and hugely entertaining, especially the scenes that see a lion dance invaded by a giant centipede, Wong's deflection of a prisoner, the superbly designed bridge battle between Jet Li and Gordon Liu, and the final showdown that allows the former to dress like a rooster and show off his drunken-fist boxing. It's a fight that harks back to one of Yuen Woo Ping's earliest directorial efforts with Drunken Master starring Jackie Chan, and proves to be a great finish to the fast moving feature.
Here, Jet Li is joined by a top cast including Wong Jing regular leading lady, Sharla Cheung Man, who would also star alongside Li in Kung Fu Cult Master later that year. Discovered by Wong Jing and debuting in his martial-arts action-classic, Magic Crystal, Cheung had already starred in over 40 films by the time Last Hero In China came about and does a great job, once again, in her action role as a warrior woman that aids Wong's mission alongside her father who is played by Chu Tit Wo – a 70s kung-fu actor who starred in action hits such as Crystal Fist, Martial Club, Legendary Weapons Of China, 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, Project A 2, Miracles, Crystal Hunt, and The Bare-Footed Kid which came about just after this. The amazing Gordon Liu appears once again as a Shaolin monk, only this time a villainous one who is behind the abductions. While his role is more of a bit-part than full starring role, Liu still impresses and stars in one of my favourite scenes with the aforementioned underground bridge fight in the dungeon where he keeps his prisoners. While this fight against Jet is definitely a highlight of the film for many, Liu gets to return to the story a little later to bust more moves. His Shaw Brothers co-star and legend in his own right, Leung Kar Yan, stars as Wong's leading disciple Leung Foon – the character played by Yuen Biao in the first OUATIC and Max Mok after that. While it's mostly played for laughs, Leung still gets to show off his physical attributes which is always a joy to watch and returns to work with Jet in Kung Fu Cult Master, and again 20 years later in the fun Badges Of Fury. He is partnered with the handsome and funny Dicky Cheung who stars here as Bucktooth So, with their pairing proving to be often hilarious and enjoyable to watch, although this would be his only film with Jet Li. The hilarious Nat Chan Pak Cheung, who has been a Wong Jing regular since he first worked with him in the early 1980s on Winner Takes All, appears as the brothel pimp and whimpering Mass Tar Wong with the prolific and wonderful Kingdom Yuen who stars as his brother madam. The lovely Anita Yuen, who hadn't quite reached her peak by this stage, appears as one of the more characteristic prostitutes known as Miss Nine, with popular choreographer and actor Dion Lam appearing as the antagonised prisoner that is made to attack Wong earlier in the movie. The incredible, prolific, and late Alan Chui stars in one of his best roles as the sadistic and brutal Official Lui Yat Siu who relishes in his evil role, and proves to be more than a match for Jet Li's physical prowess. Since making his debut as a child actor in King Hu's Come Drink With Me in 1966, Chui went onto work on around 150 films through to 2020 as an actor/director/choreographer, proving to be one of the best in the business until his passing in November of 2022. It's also worth noting the fun cameos by the amazing Chung Fat, Yuen Mo, and Jimmy Au who get to enjoy the films' opening fight scene against Jet in his introductory scene as Wong Fei Hung...
It's worth noting that Tokyo Raiders director Jingle Ma provides some great cinematography, along with Tom Lau who would go on to shoot My Father Is A Hero and Dr. Wai & The Scripture With No Words for Jet soon after. Presented, once again, under the Heung brothers' Win's Movie Productions banner, Last Hero In China has often been considered among Wong Jing's finest works as a director, with 1993 proving to be his transition period into wuxia epics as a director with such as this, Legend Of The Liquid Sword, Holy Weapon, Kung Fu Cult Master, Hail The Judge and New Legend Of Shaolin, proving that he could quite happily produce the same quality of exciting wire-fu action alongside the genre-experts such as Tsui Hark, Tony Ching Siu Tung, and even Yuen Woo Ping himself – although it would be over a decade before he would return to it, regardless of his success with the aforementioned titles. Still, it's only fair to say that Last Hero In China proves to be as highly entertaining today (especially with this new HD restoration and Blu-ray release from 88 Films) as it was upon its release that saw it take in over $18 million HK dollars during its release in the month of April, 30 long years ago in 1993!
Overall: With non-stop comedy, exciting and impressive kung-fu action, and a stellar cast to boot, Last Hero In China is still as entertaining today as it was upon release and is well worth checking out!
88 Films Blu-ray Extras: Audio Commentary with James Mudge, Deleted Scenes, Jet Li's UK 2000 Visit, Trailers, Stills Gallery
Nova Media Blu-ray Extras: Trailer
UK DVD Extras: Cast Bios, Trailer, Photo Gallery
Made In Hong Kong VHS Trailers: Snake In The Eagles Shadow, Moon Warriors, Invincible Shaolin, Treasure Hunters
Get your copy HERE
Watch my unboxing video for this 88 Films Blu-ray release HERE
THE LAST TYCOON
(Hong Kong 2012)
Original Title: Da Shang Hai (aka) The Last Dragon Master; Last Shanghai; Shanghai Ultimate Gangster
Directed by Wong Jing Produced by Andrew Lau Action by Lee Tat Chiu Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Sammo Hung, Huang Xiao Ming, Francis Ng, Yuan Quan, Yasuaki Kurata, Monica Mok, Gao Hu, Zheng Yi Tong, Xin Bai Qing, Yang Da Peng Reviewing: Hi-Yah TV Release Genres: Action / Drama / Historical
Rating - 4.3 / 5
Synopsis: Action superstar Chow Yun Fat portrays real-life gangster Chen Daqi as he rises to the upper echelons of power, finding himself torn between the love of two women, the murderous plots of the secret service, and the looming threat of war. (119 Mins)
Views: I actually can't believe it has taken me a good decade to finally see this film! The Last Tycoon takes superstar Chow Yun Fat back to his days on The Bund, as it tells the story of Cheng Daqi and his journey to becoming one of Shanghai's most respected gang leaders. Of course, life isn't quite as simple as that, and soon Daqi is facing many major issues in his life from Japanese invaders and secret service plots, as well as being torn between the two loves of his life. The Last Tycoon is a beautifully made blockbuster movie, directed by the incredibly busy and hugely inspiring Wong Jing – a Hong Kong director who, for the last 5 decades, has delivered some of Asia's most memorable films; starring in almost 100, writing almost 200, producing over 160, and directing over 100. There is literally no Hollywood film-maker who can come close to having such an impressive filmography behind them, and while many of them can be hit-and-miss at times, it's fair to say that Wong has delivered some genuine classics over the years!
The handsome Huang Xiao Ming does a fantastic job as the younger version of Chow Yun Fat and, at times, actually looks identical to the legendary star. This was a great casting choice by Wong, with Huang proving once again just what a strong actor he really is. After a small role in Bright Heart at the turn-of-the-century, Huang gained the role of Sammo Hung's son in the poorly received Legend Of The Dragon before starring as General Yin in Feng Xiao Gang's epic film, The Banquet the following year. Since then, he has went on to star in hits such as The Sniper, Sacrifice, Ip Man 2, and The Guillotines, before his role here as the young Cheng Daqi. Since then, Xiao Ming has become a name to watch for with roles in Badges Of Fury, Crimes Of Passion, The White-Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom, The Crossing 1 & 2, League Of Gods, Mission Milano, and the epic Chinese war movie The Eight Hundred – among many others. Interestingly enough, Huang re-joined Sammo in the aforementioned Ip Man 2 before joining him once again in The Last Tycoon, with the big man stepping back from the action and focus more on the drama. While it may seem slightly disappointing to some that we don't get to see Sammo fight, he still makes quite the impression as Master Hung - Daqi's boss and powerhouse of Shanghai - and more than made up for it by kicking-ass the very same year in the fun Naked Soldier before continuing to do it again in Princess & The Seven Kung Fu Masters, Once Upon A Time In Shanghai, Rise Of The Legend, and his self-directed action-drama, The Bodyguard. Prolific actor Francis Ng stars as Mao Zai, the scene stealing double-crossing soldier who meets Daqi in a cell. Upon helping himself escape, Mao goes on to both look after the young hero and manipulate him; forcing him into making his first kill and sticking close by over the years. I've always enjoyed seeing Francis on-screen, and more often than not portraying a villain that I just love to hate. Since he burst onto the screen in the mid-to-late 80s, Ng has went onto star in almost 160 films including Final Run, Devil Hunters, The Bride With White Hair, Kung Fu Cult Master, Satan Returns, Full Alert, A Man Called Hero, Bullets Over Summer, Colour Of The Truth, Exiled, A Home With A View, and so much more – rarely disappointing and always leaving an impression. But for me, it has to be the awesome Chow Yun Fat who returns to familiar ground, delivering a strong and emotional performance right through to the end. I first fell in love with Chow after seeing him in the amazing Hard Boiled back in the early 90s, quickly followed by God Of Gamblers, Tiger On The Beat, and The Killer; before going on to search for everything and anything that he starred in. I often felt that his career choices seemed a little unsure with his departure from Hong Kong cinema in the mid-90s, but after a few years in Hollywood (with a handful of decent movies behind him) he soon came back with a bang in the Oscar winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon before taking on the new century with roles in films such as Curse Of The Golden Flower, The Children Of Huang Shi, Shanghai, Confucius, Let The Bullets Fly, The Assassins, and The Monkey King – as well as reprising his infamous role as the God of Gamblers in the Wong Jing trilogy, From Vegas To Macau. It's also worth noting the worthy performances from Gao Hu as Daqi's bodyguard and close friend Lin Huai, as well as Yolanda Yuan, Monica Mok, and Kimmy Tong who play his love interests – with the latter playing a younger version of Monica's character, Bao – and it was nice to see the great Yasuaki Kurata appear briefly as Major General Nishino, although (much like Sammo) doesn't get to bust a move which is a pity...
Actor and choreographer Lee Tat Chiu delivers some brilliantly crafted action scenes that are often delivered in slow motion, capturing the beauty of the destruction and violence on offer. From gang fights to shoot-outs, and a wonderful knife attack in the rain that sees the character of Lin Huai take down a gang of men as their umbrellas tumble through the air. Starting into the industry in the early 90s, Lee would appear in films such as God Of Gamblers 2, Bury Me High, City Hunter, The Bare-Footed Kid, Holy Weapon and Future Cops, going on to play more action roles in The Bodyguard From Beijing, Fist Of Legend, The Blade, Legend Of The Wolf, Storm Riders, and more. The mid-to-late 90s would see him double-up as an action-choreographer through to the turn-of-the-century on films like Sixty Million Dollar Man, Big Bullet, Storm Riders, Sunshine Cops, Born To Be King, and more before continuing his work on modern hits like Colour Of The Truth, Moving Targets, and Bodyguards & Assassins. The scenes set during the Japanese attack in Shanghai during WWII are pretty cool too, with some serious explosions on display as the city crumbles around the people. It's an intense sequence that brings more and more devastation on a massive scale, closing with a bittersweet moment that reveals the painful love triangle of Daqi, Zhiqiu and her husband. I actually didn't expect such an explosive scale of action, but it was hugely impressive and, once again, showed that Wong Jing can deliver a serious piece of film when he wants to. The grand finale begins when a Peking Opera Show is put-on for the Japanese officials which allows Daqi and his men to attack their base, and save his masters wife along with many others. It's a dark, emotional, and action-packed closure to the film that just confirms why Chow Yun Fat is one of the greatest actors to ever come out of Hong Kong!
While it may be far from perfect and suffer from a slightly flawed script, The Last Tycoon still proves to be slickly directed with Wong Jing adding nods to films like Ip Man 2, The Grandmaster, The Killer, In The Mood For Love, and The Godfather respectively. The film also benefits from plenty of gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Andrew Lau and Jason Kwan, with the Infernal Affairs director also serving as the films producer, accompanied by a wonderful score from composer Comfort Chan, along with a theme song from Jacky Cheung and beautiful closing number by Joanna Wang. And while both Andrew Lau and Comfort Chan would be nominated for their work at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards, Jacky Cheung (and co) would take away the award for Best Original Film Song. It's also worth mentioning that the Chinese release was cut by about 10 minutes upon release...
Overall: Gorgeously shot, well acted, and beautifully directed, The Last Tycoon is a brilliant piece of modern Hong Kong cinema that's well worth the watch!
LITTLE HEROES LOST IN CHINA
Original Title: Xiao Gui Qi Bing (aka) Little Kids Lost In China
Directed by Allen Lan Produced by Lan Ketsarinh Action by Allen Lan Action Stunt Group Starring: Moon Lee, Ku Feng, Louis Roth, Joslyn J. Watson, Metken Brenton Trevor, Chan Keung, Yang Hou, Grayham Mason Poole, John Wesley Zadan, Allen Lan, Angela Chang Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Martial Arts / Comedy / Adventure
Rating - 3 / 5
Synopsis: Environmental researcher Louis Roth and his family are lost at a mountain in China. His son is lost too, and he finds bunch of kids who are also lost in the forest. (100 Mins)
Views: It took me some time to see Little Heroes Lost In China, and even at that, it still wasn't with English subtitles. Thankfully, the story isn't overly difficult to follow and it all still made for a pretty entertaining film. Most of that, of course, would be down to the fantastic kung-fu on offer and Home Alone-type antics that are on offer. The film starts of with Louis Roth (in his last ever role before his death the same year), as an environmental researcher who has arrived in China with his wife and son. After getting stranded due to a mistake that was lost in translation, they hire a car to travel alone and reach their destination. A break-down leaves them stranded, and a further accident separates them from their son who ends up lost in the forest below a cliff. The boy is (kind of) rescued by a gang of cute kids who are lost themselves. But these kids certainly don't have a problem when it comes to taking on problematic adults who often get in their way, and with some incredible wushu moves. As if that wasn't enough, the kids also have to deal with some nasty wood cutters and a pair of greedy Westerners that are out to steal some ancient Chinese treasures!
While it may have some minimal violence here and there, this 1995 film is ultimately a kung-fu adventure comedy for kids. It's the directorial debut of Allen Lan – the same man behind the so-so Flying Dragon, Leaping Tiger with Sammo Hung who was also the action-director (or assistant action-director) on films such as Death Games, Ip Man 2, Swordsman 2, The Medallion, and the first Detective Dee film. Little Heroes Lost In China will never go down as one of the greatest martial arts adventure films ever, but it definitely has its moments and, aside from the fact that it reminded me of the 80's Taiwanese Kung-Fu Kids series – as well as one of my childhood favourites, Lucky Seven – any film that has Moon Lee kicking-ass is more than enough for me. This would be her last film before going on to star in the popular Fist Of Hero television series, before (unfortunately) retiring from the film world for a least a good decade or more. And even though it is sold as a Moon Lee movie, she actually only flits in-and-out with an impressive introductory fight scene at the beginning, a couple of brief scuffles in the middle, and a fantastic closing fight at the end when she saves the day (of course). Sometimes, these scenes are backed by the borrowed score of Brave Young Girls – an action packed 'girls-with guns' classic that stars her long-time on-screen sister and nemesis, Yukari Oshima. The fact of the matter is, Little Heroes Lost In China is all about the kids – a bunch of cute young wushu performers who highly impress, and bring on plenty of laughs with some of their moves over-cranked for comedy-effect, complete with booby-traps in that aforementioned Home Alone way. If I'm to be honest, I was actually expecting the worst - constantly waiting for lots of cheesy moments and really bad action, but there really wasn't any to complain about. Even the little blonde western kid, Metken Brenton Trevor (in what seems to be his only ever film role), was genuinely fun to watch. One scene had him being trained in kung-fu by the kids, which seems to be going well until he breaks in to air-guitar mode and starts dancing about with the others joining in soon after. It reminded me of that god-awful moment in American Shaolin (King Of The Kickboxers 2) when Drew Carson starts singing the Shaolin Temple Blues to get the monks in a good mood, although it was nowhere near as cringe-worthy...
As the director and fight choreographer (along with his stunt team) Allen Lan Hai Han certainly didn't hold back on the choreography – both for the kids and the adults – with Moon Lee getting to show some fantastic moves throughout before closing with a lengthy fight against a neighbouring girl and two tomb raiders. My only niggle would be that the end battle had some silly wire enhanced moments, but it hardly detracted from what was going on and I was pretty impressed overall, and saw Lan show-up here and there. Interestingly enough, Lan's first starring role was in a child-led martial-arts war film called The Flying Tigers & The Kung Fu Kids before he went onto work with Alexander Lou Rei on films such as Devil Killer, Five Fighters From Shaolin, and Mafia Vs Ninja. Allen would also star in films like Exciting Dragon, Magnificent Warriors, China Heat, Swordsman 2, and Hero Of Swallow, while choreographing and directing in-between. The film itself is nicely shot, and while mostly taking place in the forest, still proved to be pleasing to the eye thanks to Tommy Tong Yue Tai – a cinematographer who lensed classics such as Ninja The Final Duel, Shaolin Chastity Kung Fu, Ninja Hunter, Super Ninja, Mafia Vs Ninja, Ninja USA, Ninja Condors, Mr. Vampire (the one directed by James Wu), Whore & Policeman, and more.
Fans of Shaw Brothers legend Ku Feng will enjoy his cameo that sees him pop-up for about 5 minutes, and the final scene at the airport is an emotional good-bye to little Metken that shows all the Chinese kids dressed just like him as they fight back the tears. It reminded me of the closing scene at the end of Lucky Seven, and was a nice little touch to finish things!
Overall: A fun film, Little Heroes Lost In China has plenty of neat fight scenes and lots of laughs to keep all ages entertained!
LONG ARM OF THE LAW
(Hong Kong 1984)
Original Title: Sang Gong Kei Bing 省港旗兵 (aka) Hong Kong Vice
Directed by Johnny Mak Produced by Sammo Hung, Johnny Mak Action by Billy Chan Starring: Lam Wai, Chan Ging, Shum Wai, Tommy Wong, Ben Lam, Wong Kin, Chiang Lung, Ng Hoi Tin, Yeung Ming, Alex Ng Reviewing: 88 Films UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Crime / Action / Drama
Rating - 4.3 / 5
88 Films Blu-ray Synopsis: Return to the mean streets of the 1980s for a pair of ghetto real crime dramas that redefined Hong Kong cop movies. Based on real events in the then Crown Colony, the Long Arm Of The Law films depict the threat posed by former Mainland Chinese soldiers crossing the border to stage hyper violent crimes in broad daylight. These films are a stunning blend of cinema verite with bone-crunching Hong Kong stunt sequences. Long Arm Of The Law 1 & 2 left local audiences shell-shocked when first released, and still retain their impact today. Don't miss the chance to see a double bill torn from the most savage era in reel and real Hong Kong history! In the early 1980s, a band of former Mainland Chinese soldiers decide to rob the rich pickings of neighbouring Hong Kong. The streets of the British colony echo with gunfire as the local cops contend with these heavily armed crime tourists. A cast of unknowns deliver stunning performances in this true crime tale. Finally, the gang cannot escape the long arm of the law,leading to a fierce showdown within the Kowloon Walled City. In this gritty change of pace for producer Sammo Hung, neophyte director Johnny Mak delivers a crime saga of bloody brotherhood with a real visceral impact. (106 Mins)
Views: Often ranked in the top ten of Hong Kong cinema's top 100 movies, Long Arm Of The Law is a gritty, no-nonsense thriller that racked up 9 nominations at the 1985 Hong Kong film awards in many categories, and despite only winning 2 of them, has continued to be a firm favourite for many over the decades. One such nomination was for Best Screenplay based on the script written by Philip Chan, a policeman turned actor who also wrote and directed hits such as Night Caller, Inspector Chocolate, Front Page, as well as penning Long Arm Of The Law 2 – the first of three sequels for this film. Aside from these, Chan would also direct titles such as Simon Yam's long forgotten Tongs: A Chinatown Story, the Sammo Hung's Return Of Pom Pom, From Here To Prosperity, and the brilliant Where's Officer Tuba? featuring the big man himself. It's clear that both he and Sammo had a great working relationship over the years, with Chan popping up in numerous Sammo Hung films over the years from Owl Vs Bumbo to the Pom Pom series and more, with the martial-arts movie legend producing Long Arm Of The Law for him under the Bo Ho Films banner – one of the first from his company in 1984 alongside the first Pom Pom movie, Chow Yun Fat's serious war-drama Hong Kong 1941, and the fun Lam Ching Ying horror-comedy, Hocus Pocus. Joining him would be prolific producer Johnny Mak, also making his directional debut here which would also be his last, ironically. Although he was greeted with much praise and support for what he delivered with Long Arm Of The Law, Johnny would go on to only help write and produce its three sequels, with his brother Michael taking over directional duties respectively. While the film tells the simple tale of mainlanders coming to Hong Kong to get rich quick by forming a criminal gang and robbing jewelery stores, it would be the tense situations and repercussions that unfold afterwards that starts to reshape things. From gripping chase scenes through the neon-lit streets of Hong Kong to the ballistic shoot-outs inside the claustrophobic Walled City, Long Arm Of The Law fast becomes a story of self-destruction and desperation that sees its wanna-be gangsters strive to survive through gun-fights, police chases, foiled robbery attempts, and unrequited love!
In 1979 Johnny Mak made his first foray into the industry when he produced the popular television shows Dragon Strikes, Reincarnated, and Ten Sensational Cases. His first film production was with David Lai's Crimson Street, an action-thriller from 1982 that starred Sally Yeh and Kenny Bee. After putting a few more features behind him, Mak arrived at Long Arm Of The Law, his groundbreaking crime-thriller that saw him take on directorial duties for the one and only time in his career. From there, Mak focused on writing and producing, going on to deliver titles such as the Long Arm Of The Law sequels, Rich & Famous, Tragic Hero, The Iceman Cometh, Spiritual Love, To Be Number One, Lord Of The East China Sea, Sex & Zen, Island Of Greed, and many more. Here, he does quite a fantastic job in the directors chair, with the film going on to bring in over $10 million HKD in its opening week. It stands tall as one of the finest movies of its time, with Mak bringing Chan's fantastic script to life with a gritty realism that would go onto inspire a generation. Intensely captured by cinematographer Johnny Koo – who would also helm many of Mak's aforementioned works as well as titles such as Aces Go Places 2, Haunted Cop Shop 2, As Tears Go By, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, and Stage Door Johnny – and backed by a great score courtesy of Lam Miu Tak, Long Arm Of The Law is one Hong Kong movie that deserves to be seen, especially for anyone that's a fan of Alex Cheung's Cops & Robbers or The Big Heat from Johnnie To and Andrew Kam.
Although Hung and Mak opt to use many unknown faces for the main cast, Hong Kong film fans will still recognise a number of stars on screen such as the brilliant David Lam Wai, a Shaw Brothers actor who used his role here as a stepping stone into modern action cinema after becoming a huge star overnight from its success. Aside from his bit roles in hits such as Five Element Ninjas, Buddha's Palm, Holy Flame Of The Martial World, and 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, fans will know Lam for his roles in Jackie Chan's Project A 2, A Chinese Ghost Story, Dragons Forever, King Of Beggars, and many more with over 160 film credits to his name today. Chan Ging, from films such as Yes Madam, Royal Warriors, Tiger Cage, and Magnificent Warriors, also appears and gives one of the stronger performances of his career – returning for a brief role in Long Arm Of The Law 2 although as a completely different character (like many of the actors in this movie). The prolific Shum Wai, who had only appeared in 4 or 5 movies before this, stars as a small-time criminal and police snitch who finds himself in the path of vengeance with the criminal gang, going on to meet his demise while wearing a tight pink tracksuit – which will never leave my mind. Of course, since then, Wai went onto star in around 100 features with every major Hong Kong star, and even tried his hand at directing with Spiritually A Cop starring Stanley Fung, Yukari Oshima, and Mang Hoi, as well as Chow Sing Chi's Triad Story and Master's Necklace with Ray Lui. Eagle eyed viewers should enjoy the scene that sees Shum Wai getting interrogated by a young Tommy Wong, and Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Ben Lam who appears a Hong Kong policeman, returning for a bigger role in the sequel along with the great Alex Ng Hong Ling who plays his usual bad-guy right-hand-man role here. It's also worth noting how impressive Ng Hoi Tin was as Inspector Li, here making his debut performance which also saw him return for the sequel in a similar role. Between that, Hoi Tin would appear in films such as Philip Chan's Night Caller, Yes Madam, Seven Angels, and Rich & Famous/Tragic Hero (which would see him co-star with Alex Ng yet again). While his role was even more impressive in the sequel and he often proved to deliver a solid performance, Ng's acting career would only last 5 years with a returning role as a judge in Andy Lau's crime-drama, The Truth – Final Episode, being his last to date.
Of course, one of the big highlights of Long Arm Of The Law for many is the gritty action on offer. From ballistic and violent shoot-outs to pain inducing stunts – including one incredibly brave (or stupid) stunt featuring Yuen Mo that sees him hit the ice hard after falling from a great height! While hardcore action fans may complain about the length of time between each action piece, its fair to say that they will be greatly rewarded for their patience. Choreographed by the popular Billy Chan – brother of actor Peter Chan, both of whom were long time members of the Sammo Hung Stunt Team – the actor/producer/choreographer/director leads his big brothers team into a world of realism and brutality, swapping the stylised martial-arts ways for street-fights and bullets. From its opening prison break to the impressive shoot-out and chase in the busy shopping streets of Hong Kong – a scene that used up to 8 cameras with disguised cameramen hiding in plain sight, ready to capture what was about to unfold and making the local bystanders think it was real. But this was quite typical for Hong Kong productions of this era – it was a very different time for HK film-makers, a lot of what you see is real. There was no CGI and that's what helps make the action moments even more impressive. The explosions are big and very real, and what Chan manages to craft for the final showdown in the Walled City is just incredible. I'm surprised that they got away with what they did, but you can definitely see the influences here of what was to come from future directors of the heroic bloodshed genre. In fact, Long Arm Of The Law has often been regarded as one of the first heroic bloodshed movies which, of course, was soon popularised by John Woo with the A Better Tomorrow Trilogy, The Killer, Bullet In The Head, among many others.
With a grittiness and rawness that allows for a realistic look at the underbelly of the Hong Kong crime scene, there's no denying that such a movie inspired much of what was to come from the genre over the next few decades and saw its first sequel get its release a lengthy three years later, with part 3 following in 1989 and part 4 – also known as Underground Express – just a year after that. Connected by name only, each chapter follows the same basic storyline of criminal Chinese mainlanders fighting against Hong Kong cops, and although not as highly regarded as the first, all still deserve to be seen as exciting thrillers from Hong Kong cinema's heyday and has never looked better than it does today in this stunning new 2K restoration from 88 Films!
Overall: Still as impressive and important today as it was upon release, Long Arm Of The Law is an intense crime-thriller with heart that deserves to be seen!
88 Films Blu-ray Extras: 2K Restoration of both Hong Kong Cut & Export Cut, Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng (HK Cut), Interviews with Michael Mak, Johnny Mak, & Philip Chan, Conversation with Billy Chan & Philip Chan, Theatrical Trailer
Get your copy HERE
Watch my unboxing video for this 88 Films Blu-ray release HERE