Deadly Kick (1976)
Director: Lo Lieh and Young Nam Ko
Writers: Yoon Sam-yuk
Starring: Lo Lieh, Bobby Kim, and Bang Su-il.

Plot Outline: To be 100% honest with you, I could barely keep up with what was happening in this film. I mostly found myself zoning in and out, only coming out of my haze when either a fight or something bizarre happened. Anyway, I’ll give it my best shot: Lo Lieh plays a man back home from five years in prison. He was originally sent to the big house for raping and blinding a woman, a woman who now obviously vows revenge. Lo Lieh is then confronted by a criminal organization who wants him to join their forces. He is eventually wrapped up in an espionage plot that leads him to a mysterious woman, and he is also pursued by the ex-lover of the woman he blinded/raped. Sound convoluted? You betcha.


The Review
With a title like “The Deadly Kick,” I couldn’t help but let my expectations get the best of me. Before watching this film, I barely even checked out the synopsis. You’ve got Lo Lieh and a movie named The Deadly Kick, where could you go wrong? So with very different expectations in hand, I was probably doomed from the beginning. When I think of that title, The Deadly Kick, I immediately think of a period-film landscape and I think of a film with a story something like this: Man’s family is killed, he must learn a new kicking style of Kung Fu, and he must eventually search for his vengeance. The end. Formulaic, sure, but sometimes that familiarity is precisely what a film geek needs in order to relax and have a comfortable night at home with a cheap movie. Ordinarily, a break from the usual can also be a very good thing, but sadly The Deadly Kick just isn’t the film to prove that. Don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t utterly atrocious, but it doesn’t have the flow that a movie such as this deserves.

First of all, the film is set in contemporary time (well, the late seventies), and secondly, there’s barely any martial arts in the film at all. There are occasional fight scenes that pop up, but most of it isn’t on-screen or even choreographed in a very clean manner. For some reason, the filmmakers thought it would be really cool to take that whole ‘animal style’ gimmick up a notch by having the characters who use them pop up on screen with whatever the animal is. This is then followed by a first-person shot of whoever was hit lying on the ground. I’m serious. Nearly every time Lo Lieh uses his Eagle Claw technique, we got a shot of him and a couple of flashes to the animal, then a shot of the guy/girl on the ground. We don’t actually even see him hit them. To make things worse, in the latter half of the movie the Eagle is actually on-set! There’s a zoom at one point that focuses on Lo Lieh’s face, but then the camera pans out and we see a stuffed Eagle just to the right of Lo Lieh. It’s one of the silliest things I’ve seen in a martial arts film. Well, the silliest thing that is supposed to be taken serious. As I said though, even the Kung Fu that’s visible isn’t that great either. It’s usually fairly clunky and just doesn’t live up to what I would expect from Lo Lieh.

The biggest problem with the film is the inconsistencies and terrible plotting. One thing I’ve learned about watching Kung Fu is this – never watch it with other people if you want to know the plot. Most of the time, if you’re like me that is, you’ll spend half the time joking around or having fun with the movie rather than absorbing the plot. So, I of course watched The Deadly Kick alone, but here’s the thing: I still have no idea what it is about. The plot isn’t very concise and it simply meanders around in a very plodding fashion. We go from one thing to another, and I couldn’t help but feel that the film was heavily edit. For instance, how did Lo Lieh and that guy (Who looks mysteriously like a Asian Charles Bronson) get wrapped up in the whole safe-cracking subplot? I honestly don’t know. The inconsistencies go deeper than the plot though, just look at Lo Lieh’s character – he begins the film as a man fresh-out-of-prison, drinking his blues away because of his past crimes. At least, that’s what we are lead to believe. Then, we skip to him visiting his mother and wife, both who want nothing to do with him. After that, we’re treated to a flashback of how Lo Lieh was sent to prison via the woman who he blinded/raped. We find out that Lo Lieh made an ultimatum with his master, and his master told him that if he could beat his other student, then he would be able to marry the master’s daughter. See, the master’s daughter was supposed to marry the other student. Anyway, Lo Lieh beats this other guy and smashes him into ground beef. Looking to claim his reward, he then rapes and blinds the daughter later that night. After this flashback, and somewhere around this time in the movie, Lo Lieh’s character transforms from the sympathetic man that he was during the introduction of our movie and he now becomes a ruthless bad guy. For a little while, I was actually beginning to wonder if maybe Lieh’s character had a twin. He goes from good guy feeling down on his luck and drinking a lot, to an evil villainous anti-hero in roughly four minutes.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Sonny Chiba’s The Street Fighter while watching this film. Similar to Street Fighter, Deadly Kick is a definite exploitation flick, and it also features messy choreography, brutal violence, a little nudity, and the fashion of the era is in full effect. Lo Lieh is not Sonny Chiba, however, so the messy Kung Fu doesn’t come off looking like polished-brawling, but instead it only appears to be messy. There’s the whole exploitation angle that eh film takes, and this is probably the biggest saving grace within the whole movie. I won’t ruin it for you, but near the end of the film there’s a brutal scene involving Lo Lieh and a very strange bit of strangulation. I won’t go any deeper, because if you have to see this film, this one sequence is certainly the reason why. There’s also a couple of bizarre sex scenes thrown into the mix. One of these involves Lo Lieh, who actually refers to himself as “The King of the nether region.” I swear, if I would have been drinking milk at that moment It would have spurted through my nose. I had to hit rewind multiple times just to make sure I didn’t imagine it.

The Conclusion
The Deadly Kick is not a good film, but it is at least entertaining. It is a movie that had tremendous potential, but unfortunately it never comes close to being a classic. If the violence would have been spread out more evenly, if the plot had made more sense, if the choreography had been tighter, and if there were more lines as equally as memorable as “I’m the king of the nether region,” then perhaps this could have been a beloved cult oddity. Unfortunately, that is not the case. However, it is memorable enough to garner a two out of five. Even if the movie has pitfalls, there’s enough happening in it to make it worth a cursory glance.