Thursday, September 12, 2013

Big Land Flying Eagles

Director: Ulysses Au Yeung
Starring: Wong Goon Hung (Champ Wang), Lin Yung, Paul Chang Chung, Shi Feng

 Here we have an interesting, well crafted and visually unique wuxia film.

The complicated plot centers on traveling swordsman supreme, Xiao Fong ( the awesomely labeled Champ Wang). Xiao killed the son of local warlord, Lee Sang. Lee was charged with the delivery of 3,000,000 in gold which has mysteriously vanished. Lee marks Xiao for death, but Xiao finds himself in an unlikely alliance with another reputable swordsman, Killer Eagle as well as a band of traveling Mongolian warrior/traders. Despite his target's new found comrades, Lee sends all manner of esoteric assassins out after him. Xiao for his part, gets involved with a mysterious woman who has manged to make many an enemy in her own right.

I'll admit that I've not seen as many classic wuxia movies as I have other types of Chinese martial arts/action films. Part of the reason is that many of the ones that I have seen tended to be overly complex and narratively confusing, at least to this Westerner.  'Big Land Flying Eagles' could easily have succomed to these same problems, but thanks to some sharp direction from Ulysses Au Yeung (a favorite independent 70s director responsible for several gems, most notably the previously reviewed 'Thou Shall Not Kill... But Once), I had little problem dissecting the complex story and characters. This is also one of the most visually striking martial arts films I've seen from this period. Shot entirely in the desert, the film creates an epic feel in spite of it's low budget. Almost a kind of 'Lawrence of Arabia'-lite (O.K. extremely lite). It's very pleasing to the eyes and creates a wonderful semi-surreal atmosphere throughout. It's quite a quirkily plotted film as well, including one of the most strikingly bizarre dramatic sequences to be found in any genre film; Xiao Fong and his mysterious squeeze are hiding out in a deserted shack when they find themselves surrounded by Lee Sang's gang. Xiao realizes that since he killed Lee's son, Lee wants the two young lovers to procriate (as in right there in the shack) and will wait one year for their child to be born and then have it killed in order to exact revenge. The shack is then ripped down by the unseen assassins so that they could see what they're doing! Xiao and the woman do not react to their sudden lack of shack. They continue to lie there in the night time forest and smile at the silliness of this failed plan. It plays just as outrageously matter-of-fact as it reads.

Featuring a terrific action sequence finale, 'Big Land Flying Eagles' is a wonderful min-epic of 70s martial arts cinema and comes highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10