Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dragon and Tiger Joint Hands

 Director: Yueng Jing Chan
Starring: Anthony Chan Keung, Shut Chung Tin, Cheung Kam, Hsieh Hsing, Jack Long Sai Ga

After being rescued from the hangman's noose for a crime unbefitting the punishment, Chinh Hsiang (Anthony Chan Keung) returns to his village home after a three year absence. There he discovers local bully turned tyrant, Tien Pioa in league with the Japanese and bleeding the poor farmers for all they possess. At first Chihn refuses to help fearing it would merely cause more problems. However, the killing of his school's teacher (Jack Long) ultimately causes him to rethink his stance. 

This is a solid Basher containing characters and plot points that are brought into sharper and more detailed focus than one is accustomed to seeing in these films. Director Yeung Jing Chan (who doubled as producer here and whose few credits span the entire spectrum of the Hong Kong action biz, ending with 1992's Gambling Ghosts Are Ready) does well to keep the material feeling fresh. This type of story has been told countless times before, but rarely was I as caught up in the characters' plights as I was here. Unfortunately, it couldn't quite sustain it's tension and by the final reels, it felt like a bit of a stretch (Chinh ultimately takes what feels like an exorbitant amount of time before deciding to go into action). But that is forgiven when faced with some of the best fight action of this period. All of the many battles are quite exciting and unpredictable (always a plus with these things) and build well up until the finale which is particularly vicious. 

All in all, Dragon and Tiger Joint Hands is a well done little spitfire of a film with good work put in by all involved. Old School Fu fans in particular will enjoy watching a young Jack Long in pre-Seven Grandmasters style punch and kick action.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Two Toothless Tigers

Director: Sammo Hung
Starring: Sammo Hung, Yuen Shun Yee, Wang Lung Wei,  Chung Fat, Lee Hoi San

I've always said that I can enjoy or at least bare with a bad Hong Kong movie as long as the action is good. Sammo Hung has done several that fit into this category (the Lucky Stars films immediately come to mind), but never has there been a more extreme example of this than the awkward and downright dull Two Toothless Tigers... which just happens to contain some of the finest fight footage ever filmed.

The plot of this surprisingly disinteresting caper centers around restaurant owner, Pao (Sammo) and his dimwitted nephew, Ah Chin (Yuen Shun Yee).Chin it seems, is not in tune with the ways of the world and through his naivete (to put it politely) continuously gets himself in trouble with the local thugs. Attempting to impress a gang with his cooking talents, he instead unwittingly insults one of the lower ranks. Trying to make peace, Chin is tricked into trashing an antiques shop and finds himself owing much financial compensation and facing jail time as a result. As a solution to this little problem, he gets himself involved with a scheme to procure a treasure map from a vicious criminal...

While the basic plot is a flimsy shaggy dog-type deal, it is certainly workable enough to create some magic considering the amount of talent involved. That the end result is as uninspiring as it is, is surprising to say the least. I've watched this film twice all the way through (the second time in preparation for this review) and I'll be damned if I can remember some of the tired shenanigans that go on in the first half. This is flat filmmmaking, plain and simple. Luckily, the picture is somewhat rescued (by my account, anyway) by several insanely great martial arts bouts. After being lulled to a near comatose state throughout the first fifty-odd minutes, these fights are a truly jolting shot of adrenaline. I can't emphasize enough how amzing these bouts are, even by Sammo's normally sky high standards. The highlight here may be the prelim bout between bad guys Wang Lung Wei and Chung Fat. This brief, but explosive bout ranks as one of the finest and most breathtaking ever (yes EVER) and the others rank close behind. To say it's a shame that there weren't a few more of these populating the pic would be a tremendous understatment.

Ultimately, Two Toothless Tigers tried very hard to get me to dislike it, but the mind blowing battles that populate it's second half prevented me from doing so... if only just barely.

Rating: 5/10