Kungfu | Varied Celluloid - Page 2

Avenging Eagle, The

Posted by JoshSamford On December - 4 - 2012

The Avenging Eagle (1978)
Director: Sun Chung
Writers: Ni Kuang
Starring: Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Ku Feng, Wang Lung Wei, and Eddy Ko



The Plot: Chik Ming-sing (Ti Lung) is a man roaming across the desert while trying to run from his past. When he ends up falling to the ground and is unable to continue, it seems certain that he will die from heat exhaustion. When all seems lost, a good Samaritan pops up to help him out. Cheuk Yi-fan (Alexander Fu Sheng, who does not reveal his name this early in the movie) stops to help the man, but Chik Ming-sing steals the Samaritan’s horse and makes haste across the desert. When the two men meet again, the ill-tempered Ming-sing ultimately offers his hand in friendship to Yi-fan. You see, Ming-sing is a wanted man. His former clan, the Thirteen Eagles, have sworn vengeance against him for rebelling against their evil ways. The Thirteen Eagles turned Ming-sing into a good-hearted man when they turned their violent path towards a young woman who had nursed Ming-sing back to health. So, in present times, Ming-sing is now on the run from the Thirteen Eagles that make up The Iron Boat Gang. Strangely enough, Yi-fan quickly swears his allegiance to the cause of destroying this evil “Iron Boat” clan. Yet, it seems that Yi-fan may in fact have his own reasons for searching out the Iron Boat Gang.


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3 Evil Masters

Posted by JoshSamford On December - 23 - 2010

3 Evil Masters (1980)
Director: Chin-Ku Lu
Writers: Ni Kuang
Starring: Kuan Tai Chen, Tak Yuen and Wang Lung Wei




The Plot: Jin Tien-yun (Chen Kuan Tai) is a top martial artist who has grown sick and tired of an evil group of tyrants known as The Three Evils. When Jin takes on this group, he is stabbed by the keeper of the inn that this fight is taking place at. Although he is injured, he manages to escape and finds his way to a local martial arts school where he runs into Gao Jian (Tak Yuen). Gao is bullied by all of his classmates and even his teacher, to enough degree. They frame him for things that he didn’t do and more often than not poor Gao is stuck with ridiculous punishments. When Jin shows up on Gao’s doorstep, he is unsure what to make of the situation. He takes in the poor man and allows him to get better, but he soon discovers how powerful Jin is within the martial world. Jin had previously fought Gao’s master and left him with broken ribs, and being that Gao’s teacher would rather punish the young man than actually teach him anything, he soon starts to learn more Kung Fu from Jin. As Gao becomes a powerful martial artist himself, the looming threat of the Three Evil Masters seems all the more present. Will they find Jin Tien-Yun and if they do what will become of young Goa Jian as he has been so helpful to Jin? These two will have to combine forces and help destroy the Evils before they manage to cause more harm!

The Review
Chen Kuan Tai once again graces the pages of Varied Celluloid and all of the world rejoices! A martial arts actor who has never received his due in a broad way, he is an actor who helped define the Shaw Bros. studio and showed a remarkable amount of range in the roles that he would play. Equally at home playing the romantic hero as well as the despicable villain who knew nothing of good or decency, he could really do it all and the audience would believe it! With 3 Evil Masters, he plays a character who balances between being the ultimate good guy and a slightly more ambiguous character. Although the character is conflicted and quite different than the ordinary, it offers a chance for Chen Kuan Tai to really show off his charisma. Directed by Lu Chin-Ku, who is a filmmaker best known for some earlier Hwang Jang Lee starring vehicles, it may seem that the film may not have a massive amount of promise – I must confess that it lives up to its starring actors’ reputation.

Kung Fu comedy is a bit of a sore subject with me, to be honest. At this stage in my own personal fandom, and perhaps you feel the same way, I feel conflicted on the subject. Here in the old school of martial arts cinema, I always like to point out how juvenile some of the comedy tends to be. The height of hilarity, in most Kung Fu films from the seventies and eighties seems to be that one worm-like character, who often has a wart (sometimes with hair) growing out of his face, and who crosses his eyes whenever he is inevitably outwitted by our Kung Fu hero. This comedic “technique” seemed so thoroughly bred into the culture that this rather corny style of humor made up the dominant majority of films that featured any sort of lighter tone. As I have grown and seen so many of these films, I have started to have more leniency with this particular style of comedy. These days I almost view the hackneyed comedy as a point of nostalgia, and it is certainly entertaining for its cheesiness. While 3 Evil Masters isn’t entirely a comedy, it certainly borders on it.

Tak Yuen, who plays the young Gao who is taken under the wing of Chen Kuan Tai, gets to play off much of this Kung Fu comedy. While he doesn’t fall into crossing his eyes or making silly faces, as if he were attempting to entertain a child, he actually does fall into another hackneyed comedic staple: in one notable scene he dresses up in drag in order to fool one of the 3 Evil Masters. While it seems as if I’m probably about to go off on a further tangent about how terrible Hong Kong martial arts comedy tends to be, I will commend this sequence because it is surprisingly one of the funnier moments of the film. 3 Evil Masters is one of the few Shaw Bros. titles to actually feature female nudity, certainly one of the few that I have seen, and the moment in question comes as the second Evil has a line of women removing their tops for a chance at a prize. Tak Yuen’s character steps to the front of the line and begins to disrobe and show off his incredibly flat chest while acting like a meek and timid young girl. Watching him pinch his nipples while making goo-goo eyes is quite possibly the funniest thing I have seen in a Kung Fu film produced by the Shaw Bros.!

Chen Kuan Tai shows up as the big “star” within the production and he also delivers the much more serious side of things in contrast to Tak Yuen’s consistent mugging for the camera. As is usually the case with old school Kung Fu films, I watched the movie with its original English dubbing and this lead to a slightly more entertaining and campy atmosphere with Chen Kuan Tai’s character, moreso than even Tak Yuen’s silliness was able to evoke. There’s an ambiguous cloud around Chen Kuan Tai’s character, mostly because everything we seem to know about the man we have learned from his own mouth throughout the film. So, as a cautious viewer, I half expected him to turn into a morally bankrupt Evil himself. Especially when we see his character go around spitting out some rather unintentionally hilarious one-liners throughout the movie. This character seems to be confident to a fault, as he is continually cocky despite being outnumbered. I particularly like the introduction to the film where the 3 Evils surround him, as he sits at a table and he boldly proclaims, “I’m going to chop off your arms, so are you ready?”, before attempting to do just that and failing tremendously. Another funny moment for me comes as he makes his introduction to Tak Yuen’s teacher, who he had fought some years previously and broke his ribs due to a well aimed punch. When Yuen’s teacher begins to show hostility towards Kuan Tai, he cockily announces “You’re excited… do you want to lose some more ribs?”, to which the teacher feels no other course of action is appropriate other than a punch in the face. When dealing with someone as arrogant as Chen Kuan Tai apparently is here, I can’t say I blame him.

The fight choreography, by Hsia Hsu, is actually very well done and features some varied styles. Hsu never really did a tremendous amount of work as a choreographer, certainly not that I can find, with his best known behind-the-scenes credit coming as a stunt coordinator on the original Drunken Master. When you have Chen Kuan Tai and Wang Lung Wei leading your film however, I suppose it isn’t that hard to make a really well choreographed martial arts film! The choreography and the central gimmick, which pits our two leading men against the “Three Evils Brigade”, are really make the movie the memorable event that it is. The comedy can be hit and miss, with good performances by almost all involved. If there is any one issue the film has, it comes from it not being an overwhelming experience and the few really solid areas that it excels in aren’t so convincing that the audience will be left blown away.


The Conclusion
The film is strong for what it is, but select members of the audience may end up wondering “what was the big deal?” afterward. It is a solid and fun piece of Kung Fu cinema featuring a great performance by one of the true legends of this field, so if you require more than that this might not be the movie for you. For fans of Chen Kuan Tai, or martial arts movie buffs in general, this should prove to be a lot of fun. Although I don’t think it would be fair for me to give it a four out of five, which is reserved for movies that I highly recommend others seek out, I am giving it a high three. I still recommend it but I think fans of will eat this one up more than casual viewers.




Armour of God

Posted by JoshSamford On June - 28 - 2008
Plot Outline: Asian Hawk (Jackie Chan) is an ex-singer in a pop group called “The Losers”. Also in the group was his friends Alan and Laura, whom Hawk also fell in love with but was forced to leave because of his love for adventure. Laura, like any good girl, settled for the closest guy who was next to her; enter Alan. Years pass, Hawk becomes quite accomplished in his career, but is soon contacted once again by Alan. Turns out some nutjob religious cult kidnapped Laura and are seeking the Armour of God. A five piece suit of Armour that grants it’s wearer tremendous power. The cult already has three pieces of the armor, Alan has one and a Duke in Spain has the final piece needed. After many hijinks, Jackie and Alan manage to get the duke to fork over his final piece, but under one circumstance, they have to take the Duke’s daughter along for the ride. Now Jackie Alan and this Spanish dish set out to save Laura, and perhaps even keep the Armour while they’re at it.



The Review
Armour of God is probably one of Jackie’s strangest, and in my opinion, best films. Definitely not an opinion shared by many, and I can already hear people yelling ‘blasphemy’, but hey it’s my opinion. I don’t know what makes me love AOG so much, I can’t tell if it’s because Armour of God was one of the earliest Chan films I seen and reminiscence is getting the better of me, or if it’s just the spark of originality and fun the film has to offer. Maybe it’s a combination of the two, but I tell you this: Of all the great ‘stunt’ films Chan has made since the 80’s, I would say AOG at the very least makes it in to the top three. That’s just my opinion of course, and frankly I can see it’s not a very popular one. A 6.4 on the imdb may not seem like such a bad thing, but the fact that it isn’t a seven shows the division the film has on people. For the life of me, I have a hard time seeing what is so terrible about the film that some people could call it the worst chan film. If anyone is a Chan fan, I don’t see how they can call the film cheesy when the humor here is no more thick than in any of his other films. It might be the fact that Jackie is a bit cocky and doesn’t play the reluctant hero he usually does. I will concede that the film definitely has it’s cheesy moments, but in a good way like most action films from the eighties. Not because Jackie’s humor is too abundant or the acting isn’t hamlet.

I see some complain that the film is too slow or boring, but this just boggles me. Sure, the middle half of the film is comprised of nothing but jokes, but how can you discredit a film that has such spectacular action scenes by calling it boring? Armour of God has two of my favorite action scenes ever. First, the car chase in the middle part of the film. It’s not on the level of Bullit or The French Connection, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s more over the top, and is just cool all around. Maybe I’m biased because of my love for watching people wreck on motorbikes, but I hold to the belief that all men, no matter what their creed can sit back and enjoy a man flying off a motorbike and off a cliff. Good old fashioned fun. The other insane action scene is really just a string of action scenes. When Jackie heads back to the cave at the end of the film, it’s almost non-stop action for fifteen minutes. Jackie’s stunt team walks away brutalized by the end of the finale. People flip off tables landing on their heads, Jackie sweeps some dude (dressed like a woman) in mid air and he does a front flip landing face first into the dirt and I won’t even spoil the ending for you. One of Jackie’s most outrageous stunts, even today.

The film isn’t perfect of course, no great film ever is, but I don’t think it’s deserving of the vile I see spewed forth about it. The middle half of the film does slow down quite a bit, and if you aren’t entertained by Chan’s humor this will most likely kill you. It almost resorts to gag after gag, but thankfully action scenes are dispersed in between all the humor and helps pick the film back up. I didn’t particularly like the western (Spanish?) girl who plays opposite Jackie or even Alan Tam, not because I thought either actor gave too bad of a performance (granted, the girl’s performance doesn’t deserve any kind of write up), but because neither had any effect on the movie for me personally. Both were just harmless, in other words: not interesting. Jackie is the one and only star in this picture show ladies and gentleman, although I would have preferred a little more Rosamund Kwan. She’s just so darn cute. Jackie is the only person with a spotlight here, not because he’s a ballhog, he’s just the only one with real charisma. His arrogance in the film never walks the line of being annoying, which can almost kill a film if played too hammy. Jackie is just right in his role, at some points full of himself, at some points full of BS. How can you not like this man?

The Conclusion
Let’s just fill out a little questionnaire here: Do you like action? Do you like Jackie Chan? Do you like watching Jackie Chan fall from trees smashing a hole in his head after a stunt goes wrong? Well, if you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you’ll love Armour of God! Chan’s older films are already a niche audience, but AOG seems to have dug a smaller and more compact niche inside the already existent niche. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it, but at the least you can appreciate the injuries Chan and his team inflict upon themselves, just to entertain all of us.



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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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