Buddhist Fist, The | Varied Celluloid

Buddhist Fist, The

Posted by JoshSamford On July - 15 - 2008
This review was originally written between 2003-2006 and has since been slightly edited. The opinion remains the same as the original posting, but slight errors have been revised or smoothed out.

The Plot: Shang, as a young man is trained in kung fu by his best friend’s (Siu Ming) master. When Shang reaches adulthood he heads for the city and tries his hand as a barber. Things go bad for the young and and unfortunately he is fired. Shang then sets his sights back towards home, only to find his father has been missing for months. Shang then begins to unravel the mystery of where his father has went, and what follows may be more than he can handle!


  

The Review
The Buddhist Fist was one of the films that initially put famed martial arts choreography Yuen Woo-Ping on the map. The movie was originally made right in the middle of his early heyday, which featured such memorable titles as Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Drunken Master and The Magnificent Butcher. In the context of history it is easy for The Buddhist Fist to be hidden in the shadow of these gigantic titles, but in my opinion it can be seen as a somewhat lost classic of martial arts cinema. The Kung Fu on display here is stellar and the comedy is either going to grate your nerves or keep you in stitches, depending on your love of silly kung fu comedy. The film has it all and makes for a great addition to Yuen’s spectacular filmography.

If I didn’t make it apparent above, the comedy here is a bit heavy-handed but if you’re familiar with martial arts comedy then you know what you’re getting into. Some of the comedy is just about as immature as it can get. We’ve got people with fake buck teeth, crossed eyes and extremely exaggerated emotions. If you think Jackie Chan’s films are silly then you’ve never seen a Yuen Clan production! The film doesn’t have as many of Yuen Woo-ping’s regulars (and family members) as something like Taoism Drunkard, and therefor it isn’t quite as bizarre, but the humor is just as corny and fun. The jokes are very inward and you get feeling that their projects were made to entertain themselves, but somehow got distributed. The terrible dubbing just adds to the hilarity as well. I swear, once you watch enough old school kung fu you begin to recognize voices. Anybody else ever notice the voice actor who sounds like he’s a thirteen year old kid pretending to be an adult? Also, what kind of accents are those? Kiwi or Australian?

This film doesn’t seem to be a favorite among Yuen Woo-Ping’s fans, some criticize the actors for not being as skilled in kung fu as someone like Jackie Chan, and I have even seen someone criticize the film for not having as memorable of characters as some of Pings other early films. Now, I can maybe understand the first complaint. Yuen Shun-yee, Ping’s brother, isn’t quite as fast or as flexible as the other actors and sometimes even I felt as if he was a little too chan-like. Still, anyone who says this film doesn’t have memorable characters is just out of it. This is the only film I’ve ever seen with a “hunch-back zombie looking kung fu hitman”, not to mention a chess board fighting kung-fu master. The movie is packed with hilarious supporting characters who take us to a world far outside the realm of reality. Still, “hunch-back zombie looking kung fu hitman” is definitely my favorite of the bunch. How fun is it to describe that character? At one point the hunch in his back is actually knocked through to the front of his chest. How can you not love a film with something like that?

The fight scenes between Shang and Si-Ming are the real winners here. Although most are brief, the one long fight scene between the two ranks in as a classic. The wire work and the moves are handled so well that it was hard even for me to tell what was wire work and what wasn’t. Yuen Shun-Yee and Tsui Siu Ming seem to be perfect partners for their scenes. Tsui comes off as the more nimble, and Yuen seems a bit more rugged and rough. It’s a shame Tsui never really went on to bigger things. He moves well and was very fun to watch.

The Conclusion
Anyway, the film is a minor classic of 70-80’s old school kung fu, and if you’re a fan of the directors earlier works you really should check it out. Also, keep an eye out for Ping’s father in a cameo as the guard in the temple protecting the jade Buddha. You may remember him as the master in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and the master in Drunken Master as well as many other films.

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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