The Sentimental Swordsman (1977)

The Sentimental Swordsman [多情劍客無情劍] (1977)
AKA Sword of Emotion

Starring Ti Lung, Ching Li, Derek Yee, Yueh Hua, Candice Yu On-On, Fan Mei-Sheng, Ku Feng, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, Ngaai Fei, Yuen Wah, Ku Wen-Chung, Cheng Miu, Yeung Chi-Hing, Ku Kuan-Chung, Chan Shen, Wang Sha, Shum Lo, Lee Sau-Kei, Fung Hak-On, Alan Chui Chung-San, Chiang Nan

Directed by Chor Yuen

Expectations: Been looking forward to this one for a while.


Partway through The Sentimental Swordsman, I thought about how it was Chor Yuen’s fourth film of 1977 (of five total). To craft one film of lasting appeal in a single year is a commendable feat, but to make at least four of them is truly incredible. I’ve written similar things about the high standards and prolific genius of Chang Cheh, but not until encountering this period of Chor Yuen’s output has any director come close to replicating Chang’s feat. The Sentimental Swordsman isn’t my favorite of Chor’s 1977 films — that honor still rests with Clans of Intrigue — but I do feel it’s the most well-crafted of the group, with Jade Tiger a close runner-up. They’re all made with a similarly high level of quality, though, allowing fans to endlessly debate which wuxia should be crowned leader of the Chor Yuen martial world.

The film opens with our hero, Li Xunhuan (Ti Lung), traveling by horseback across the snow-covered landscape, accompanied by his trusty servant Chuan Jia (Fan Mei-Sheng). They have lived peacefully outside the martial world for the past 10 years, but are returning upon hearing the Plum Blossom Bandit is back to his old tricks. Things get interesting when Li meets Ah Fei (Derek Yee), a wandering swordsman, and the two strike up a fast friendship. While these new friends dine at an inn, the feared swordsman duo of Black Snake (Alan Chui Chung-San) and White Snake (Fung Hak-On) attempt to rob another set of diners: a security bureau entourage transporting the Gold Threaded Vest, an item promising immunity from the Plum Blossom Bandit’s deadly darts. Ah Fei thwarts them and takes the vest, sending the martial world into a frenzy to identify the Plum Blossom Bandit and recover the vest.

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Death Duel (1977)

Death Duel [三少爺的劍] (1977)

Starring Derek Yee, Ling Yun, Candice Yu On-On, Ku Feng, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Chen Ping, David Chiang, Norman Chu Siu-Keung, Ku Kuan-Chung, Ngaai Fei, Gam Lau, Fan Mei-Sheng, Teresa Ha Ping, Yeung Chi-Hing, Lam Fai-Wong, Liu Wai, Cheng Miu, Shum Lo, Yueh Hua, Ti Lung, Lo Lieh, Nancy Yen Nan-See, Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, Chan Shen, Yuen Wah

Directed by Chor Yuen

Expectations: High. I like these Chor Yuen wuxias.


I’m not exactly sure what I expected going into Death Duel, but I felt off-kilter throughout most of the movie. I assumed it would be another in the lineup of great Chor Yuen adaptations from Gu Long novels, but I found it to be a somewhat poorly structured tale, and the character cameos from Chor’s previous films really threw me off. I’m not sure my experience is entirely the movie’s fault, though, as Death Duel is never boring or anything other than completely entertaining and fun; it all just felt sort of odd. I have a sneaking suspicion that like The Magic Blade, I’ll eventually re-watch the movie, love it, and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote this. In any case, Death Duel is both a great Chor Yuen film that delivers similar thrills to his previous mid-’70s wuxias, and a film in need of some focus.

Death Duel starts stunningly, though. Based on a relatively new story — serialized from June 1975 to March 1976, sharing the film’s Chinese title 三少爺的劍 (which translates to Sword of the Third Young Master) — the tale begins with Yen Shih-San (Ling Yun), as he arrives in a copse of trees at sunset. He’s called a meeting of elite swordsmen to test his martial skills, challenging the entire group at once and boasting that he will kill them all within 13 sword strikes. With this completed, only one man stands in Yen’s way to the top of the martial world: The 3rd Master, also known as the God of Swords. The 3rd Master is said to have an invincible sword technique, and Yen hopes to test his own invincible technique against it in a bid for the spot at the top of the ever-moving, tumultuous martial world. But when Yen tracks down the 3rd Master, he only finds his coffin. For all intents and purposes, Yen is now the greatest swordsman alive, but without challenging the reigning champion, what is this by-default glory worth?

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Police Story III: Supercop (1992)

PoliceStoryIIISuperCop_1Police Story III: Supercop [警察故事III超級警察] (1992)
AKA Supercop

Starring Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Kenneth Tsang, Yuen Wah, Bill Tung, Josephine Koo Mei-Wah, Kelvin Wong Siu, Lo Lieh, William Duen Wai-Lun, Phillip Chan Yan-Kin, Mars, Sam Wong Ming-Sing

Directed by Stanley Tong

Expectations: Superhigh.

threehalfstar


Dimension’s US release of Supercop was the second Jackie Chan film I saw. I was 14 and it blew me away. Rumble in the Bronx made me an instant fan, but Supercop spiked me into overdrive. Not only does it feature Jackie Chan doing amazing Jackie Chan things like hanging from a helicopter’s rope ladder while it flies around a Malaysian city, it also introduced me to Michelle Yeoh. She easily holds her own against Jackie, and in many ways upstages him in his own movie! Re-watching the film amidst the context of my chronological review series provides a different context and understanding, allowing me to appreciate the film in new ways, but also allowing for some disappointment to creep in.

Police Story III: Supercop cuts right to the chase; the first scene can easily be summed up as, “We need a supercop!” This time it’s Interpol coming to the HK police in search for someone who fits the bill to catch an international drug lord named Chaibat. They don’t name names, but they would have to know Chan Ka-Kui’s record, no? In any case, it’s interesting that this kind of traditionally simple action movie writing also serves as an evolution of the Supercop character.

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Dragons Forever (1988)

DragonsForever_1Dragons Forever [飛龍猛將] (1988)
AKA Cyclone Z, Action Hunter

Starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Deanie Ip, Pauline Yeung Bo-Ling, Yuen Wah, Roy Chiao, Crystal Kwok Gam-Yan, Benny Urquidez, Billy Chow Bei-Lei, Lee Ka-Ting, Phillip Ko Fei, James Tin Jun, Tai Bo

Directed by Sammo Hung

Expectations: High. Can’t wait to see the Jackie/Benny the Jet re-match again, and find out about all the stuff I completely forgot about.

threehalfstar


Dragons Forever is the final film to feature the Three Brothers (Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung & Yuen Biao), and in many ways it feels very knowledgeable of this. It often pits the brothers against each other (to wonderful results), perhaps bringing on-screen the off-screen tension due to creative disputes. It sees the return of the Wheels on Meals heavy, champion kickboxer extraordinaire Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, for a re-match. Its title has nothing to do with the movie, instead referencing the brothers themselves and their enduring friendship. Dragons Forever is a victory lap for the fans, sending off the brothers’ film collaborations at the height of their careers. As a fan you can’t argue that they didn’t deliver enough after so many movies throughout the ’80s, and since they were all capable of headlining their own films at this point in their careers, the idea of “One more Three Brothers film!” is a wonderful way to say goodbye to a very fruitful relationship. Would I like them to get back together and do another? Yeah, I wouldn’t mind that in the slightest, but there is something to be said for exiting the game at the top.

Jackie Chan plays Jackie, a sleazeball defense lawyer who handles cases for despicable criminals and womanizes every chance he gets. Sammo is something of a con-man. We first meet him selling weapons out of a duffel bag, but soon Jackie directs him to set his sights on the owner of a fishery (Deannie Yip). Jackie’s client owns a chemical factory that is polluting the fishery’s water, and he’s hoping to discredit her in any way he can to win the case. Yuen Biao is Jackie’s crazy friend, who he employs to place a bug in Miss Yip’s apartment, again to gather information to help build his case. Against type and tradition, the three brothers are all on the wrong side of this tale, so initially you can’t really root for them like you normally would.

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Heart of Dragon (1985)

HeartoftheDragon_1Heart of Dragon [龍的心] (1985)
AKA Heart of the Dragon, The First Mission, Powerman III

Starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Emily Chu Bo-Yee, Melvin Wong, Lam Ching-Ying, Mang Hoi, Chin Ka-Lok, Yuen Wah, Corey Yuen Kwai, Peter Chan Lung, James Tin Jun, Chung Fat, Dick Wei, Phillip Ko Fei, Anthony Chan Yau, Lam Ying-Fat, Wu Ma

Directed by Sammo Hung

Expectations: I remember not liking this one at all, but I’m sure I’ll be more open to it than I was as a teenager.

threestar


Heart of Dragon is one of the few Jackie Chan films that isn’t a traditional action film, and this makes it a hard sell to many fans. Director Sammo Hung wanted to stretch out the acting chops of both himself and Jackie, so the action was scaled back to allow the story’s drama to take the center stage. They even shot two fight scenes that were cut from the film, which should give you a pretty good indication of how dedicated Sammo was to making a more serious film that his previous work with Jackie. It also gave them the right to say, “We threw away better fight sequences than [insert movie title here] had!” 🙂

Heart of Dragon is actually more tonally mixed than all that makes it sound, and this really surprised me. I saw this film once before during my teenage obsession with Jackie, and the only thing I remember is Sammo in overalls and how bored I was. I honestly didn’t remember there being any action at all. This time I found Heart of Dragon to be a delicate mix of serious drama and lite comedy, with sprinkles of action and romance. Often the tones would mix together, too, which is always challenging for a movie to pull off. The scene when Sammo masquerades as his friend’s father to visit the school principal comes to mind. It’s funny as an isolated scene, but when you consider the entire situation it’s heartbreaking how vulnerable Sammo’s character is.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Choy Lee Fut (2011)

Choy Lee Fut [蔡李佛] (2011)

Starring Sammo Hung, Yuen Wah, Sammy Hung, Kane Kosugi, Stephen Wong, Dennis To

Directed By Tony Law and Sam Wong


Like a German tranny after one too many drinks, Choy Lee Fut looks decent enough on the surface to get with. That is, until you get a little too close and realize beard stubble and the lingering scent of Vitalis underneath all of that pretty blush. I was pretty excited about this film when I first heard of it. I had convinced myself that the movie would do for the martial art of Choy Lee Fut what Ip Man did for Wing Chun. 90 minutes and about 500 ham-fisted, lip-bitingly bad clichés later, I have realized that unfortunately is not the case.

Sammo Hung stars alongside his son Sammy Hung for the first time IN MOTION PICTURE HISTORY! For shits and giggles, Kane Kosugi is thrown into the mix. I last saw Kane as a nine-year old ninja-in-training in his dad’s film Pray for Death. That was about 25 years ago but Kane still looks like that cherub-faced little kid toting around a plastic ninja sword while being threatened with a blowtorch by the mafia. Sammy is able to keep the train wreck moving forward well enough, but he desperately lacks the charisma and breadth of his legendary father (who shows up long enough for a Budweiser and a pat on the back).

Of all the characters in the film, Yuen Wah’s is the only one that carries more personality and screen presence than a block of wood. I was looking forward to seeing him and Sammo share the screen again after so many years, but their single fight scene is too short, too boring, and dripping in orange-tinted CGI that looks like it was ripped from the PlayStation 2 game God of War. Simply lame. I’m surprised that they even managed to round up the two heavy-hitters for this film, but paychecks will do funny things I guess.

Ex Jackie Chan stunt team leader Sam Wong, knowing that his movie is littered with shitty, uninspired choreography attempts to save it with confusing and bewildering editing that left me reaching for a roll of Tums when all was said and done. Even worse, most of the film meanders around in the realm of cut-and-paste melodrama and cheesy forced relationships to the point that there is very little time left for any Choy Lee Fut… Not a good idea when that is the name of your fucking film.

Also, what’s up with Sammy cradling his iPhone 3G and stroking its smooth, glassy surface like it was his first-born? I’m well aware that Apple shamelessly pimps its products out at every opportunity, but the product-placement here is especially blatant and should be condemned.

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