Director: Leung Siu Chung
Starring: Kam Kang, Yasuaki Kurata
Kuo Fu, a notorious drug smuggler, escapes from a chain gang work camp. Problem is, he's still chained to another prisoner who insists on following him even after their chains are broken. Kuo suspects his unwanted follower is an undercover cop and he may be right...
O.K. what we have here is a remake of the controversial classic 1958 American feature, 'The Defiant Ones' with Kam Kang and Yasuaki Kurata replacing Tony Curtis and Sydney Poitier. Not buying it? Yeah, me neither. What director Leung Siu Chung has apparently done is to take the basic idea of two desparate criminals who can't stand each other, but are forced into a tenuous relationship due to a mutual need for survival and used it as a flimsy plot device to showcase his two leads beating the stuffing out of each other and anyone else that gets in their way (mostly cops and rival gangsters). So, is that enough to sustain an entire feature film? Well yes, if it's done as energetically as it is here. The action comes fast and furious, never feeling dull and repetitive as it might have. Despite the deadpan seriousness of the performances, there is also an oddly sadistic sense of humor going on as Kurata keeps coming up with new and unique ways of offing Kam (or at least evading him once their binds have been cut). The overall effect keeps things fairly dynamic and unpredictable despite the very obvious plot device (who honestly didn't see the 'surprise' revalation of Kam's character coming from a mile away?).
Considering that this is basically a two man show, it's a good thing that both stars were up to the challenge and really gave it their all. I've never been much of a fan of Kam Kang, but this is easily one of his most dynamic perfs. Credit the director for seemingly bringing whatever charisma he may have to the forefront. The film however, belongs to Yasuaki Kurata. In this decidedly black comedic role, Kurata as Kuo Fu gets to be both utterly ruthless and to an extent, sympathetic. Despite the fact that the character is ultimately shown to be a true villian, his charasmatic presence is enough to get audiences on his side... at least to a degree. Kurata's formidable lightning fast karate kicks are on full display here. So fast in fact, that Kam and the rest of the cast appear almost sluggish by comparison (what I wouldn't have given to have seen Kurata battle it out with Bruce Lee in a film...).
'One By One' despite it's paper thin premise, adds up as an entertaining basher. At worst, it would make for a great second bill in a Grindhouse double feature.
* * *