|Plot Outline: Hong Wen-Ting (played of course by the brilliant Gordon Liu) is a young martial arts master who along with his best friend destroy the evil priest Pai Mei. Things seem okay for a while but then White Lotus the leader of the White Lotus society makes it clear that he doesn’t like the fact that Hong killed his associate Mr. Pai Mei. To reinforce his dislike of the situation he kills several of Hong’s friends and chases he and some others out of town. Hong, being the guy he is, decides to challenge White Lotus where he experiences first hand the secret techniques of White Lotus. He finds that he cannot get close to him nor can he harm him. So Hong with his sister-in-law and friend begin to train his body, but will Hong figure out White Lotus’ techniques and can he counter them? Make your wagers now.|
The things that make Fists of the White Lotus truly stand out are all these little added bits of insanity. The key ingredient is most definitely White Lotus Chief and Pai Mei. Pai Mei is only in the film for a few moments, but I can only assume that he is more like a watered down version of White Lotus himself. They both seem to have the same groin technique. Yes, you read that right, groin technique. I don’t know how to explain it, and I don’t feel like reading up on the strange character of Pai Mei to discover what it’s all about, but I’ll put it like this: For some reason in the film, Hong Wen-Ting and whomever he has as a partner in the beginning, both seem to enjoy trying to hit White Lotus and Pai Mei in the groin. That’s not the weird part either. Several times in the film when Gordon Liu keeps trying to smack White Lotus in the package, he punches and somehow has his hand stuck in his special region. It’s as if Pai Mei replaced his naughty spot with a baseball glove. There are also some strange popping noises that accompany this whacked out image. The film never attempts to explain how White Lotus/Pai Mei are able to pull this off, or why Hong Wen-Ting continues to try to hit them there. Was that where Pai Mei’s vital nerve was located? It didn’t seem that way in the introduction, but I’ll be willing to accept anything. White Lotus isn’t just relegated to being the only man who can grab someone’s hand with his reproductive organ, he also has the ability to float around somehow. This one doesn’t quite puzzle me as much as the groin technique, it’s more of just a really cool attribute to have. White Lotus can seemingly reduce his weight to that of paper, thus causing the air from his enemy’s punch to leave him sailing away before they can get close. That might be considered a spoiler maybe, but it’s apparent what he is doing after about thirty minutes into the film so it’s no big deal. Anyway, White Lotus is the glue that holds the film together and his character alone propels it into the hearts of fans worldwide. That’s not to say he’s the only character worth watching for, Gordon Liu is on top of his game yet again delivering great martial arts with some humor as well. The comedy doesn’t get too thick which is always a good thing, but Liu gets to goof off and truly seems to enjoy doing so. That goes for all involved. Lo Lieh chews scenery like you wouldn’t believe, every scene he’s in he steals. It could just be his dubbed in voice that sounds like an elderly man that brings him so much attention, but no one strokes a fake beard like Lieh. Gordon Liu’s Sidekick has a relatively small part but delivers the dominate amount of comedy in the film. He can either be an annoying character or quite hilarious, depending on your belief in Kung Fu comedy. Since I’m the kind of geek who laughs uproariously at Jackie Chan films that I’ve seen a million times before, I thought he was a valuable asset. You should see the film for his haircut alone. He looks like his hair was cut by a blind man with a lawnmower. Then there’s probably my favorite hero of the film; Mei-Hsiao. Played by the talented Kara Hui, she’s not the damsel in distress one would expect from a film like this one. No, she throws down with the best of them, and gives birth! Let’s see Gordon Liu do that! Over time I think I’ve developed a part of me that really likes seeing women perform Kung Fu, there’s something both attractive and intimidating about a woman who could beat you until tears fall from your face, and Kara Hui has all the right moves.
I’ve went this far and I still haven’t even bragged on the Kung Fu it’s self, unbelievable. Well, if you like your Kung Fu delivered old school, you might want to wear a neckerchief because you may be drooling by the end of the film. Pretty much anything and everything Gordon Liu does in the film is instantly classic, and his epic battles with White Lotus (that eventually show off a little of Lo Lieh’s nude posterior, c’mon ladies!) are all brilliantly choreographed and enviously brought to the big screen. Not surprisingly, Lo Lieh who fills in as a director brings his experience to the table and shoots the heck out of these fight scenes. Plenty of fight scenes there are too, everything from huge battles featuring dozens of combatants all meeting their fate at the hands of Gordon Liu and his friends to those amazing duels between Liu and Lieh. Sad to think that Lo Lieh is no longer with us. He passed away last year, but he’ll always be remembered for his brilliant work. He may have starred in quite a few low level and fairly incompetent films during his career, but even then he was still the most entertaining and interesting parts of the films he was in. The man left an undeniable and much needed mark on the Kung Fu industry and will be sorely missed by all those who love the genre. I don’t mean to bring it up again, but I do hope that ‘Kill Bill’ will both be an artistic as well as a mainstream success, that way Lieh’s memory will live on by those who wish to seek out the films that inspired Tarantino’s work. That’s the greatest thing that could happen out of Tarantino resurrecting the character of Pai Mei in my mind. Of course, I do all this talking (well, typing) and I probably come off like a broken record or a meandering fanboy. I probably could be described as the second one quite fairly, but even I can see some things in Fists of the White Lotus just don’t work to the perfect effect. The film generally has a good pace and always keeps moving, but during the latter episode of the film things can get a bit repetitive once Liu challenges White Lotus for the second or so time. By the third things just seem ridiculous. Scenes of training and fighting seem to compromise the whole last act of the film and this can sometimes try even the most faithful’s nerves. Other than that, there are only minor things to disrupt the audience. Like certain plot twists not being fully etched out and of course the obvious things like overacting and such, but this is a Kung Fu flick not Oscar material. The fans could care less, and since I am a fan I write like one.
After all that positive with only a half paragraph of minor negatives you probably would assume it would get a Stubbing Award right? Well no, I’m afraid not. It gets a five rating which is usually accompanied by that gigantic fish rating of ours, but the film just isn’t groundbreaking. It most certainly is imaginative and it’s obviously incredibly entertaining, but it doesn’t bring enough originality and doesn’t crack enough unopened doors for me to really give it that highest of ratings. Of course I do recommend it at my highest for Kung Fu fans. If you love the Shaw Bros. films and haven’t seen Fists of the White Lotus, then you’re just harming yourself. If you want to get into old school Kung Fu, Fists is a great film for that too. A classic in all regards, and the only film I’ve ever seen to feature the 100 Pace Palm Technique.