Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Master Strikes (1980)

Here's my next Casanova Wong review for what has to be his most bizarre acting performance he's ever given. He plays an escort who is hired by Yen Shi-Kwan to deliver a jade artifact to his home. Funny thing is when Casanova arrives at his home Yen is already there which kind of makes hiring him completely pointless but hey far be it for me to question the logic of the movie's villain. It's soon discovered that the artifact is missing and Wong is forced to sign over his entire estate as compensation.

As a result he goes completely insane and spends his days in a tea house beating up anyone foolish enough to talk to him. Two gambling hustlers played by Chin Siu-Tung and Meng Yuen-Man decide to help him in return for some money and "hilarity" ensues, very painful and very unfunny "hilarity" at that.

You'll have to excuse the poor quality of the video as it's the only one I could find

Right away I have to say this is probably the most annoying kung fu film I've ever watched. Everyone and I mean everyone talks over each other in the dialogue scenes for the majority of the time, especially when Ching and Meng are on screen. I highly recommend hitting the fast forward button on these scenes as you'll not be missing anything important. Then again, fast forwarding is something a lot of us are used to when watching these movies.

As I mentioned before Wong gives a really bizarre performance, using the character's insanity to pull silly faces and act like a complete cartoon lunatic. It's great to see him as the hero but good lord is he irritating in this. His co-stars fair no better Ching and Meng crank up the goof factor right up to eleven and it's immensely satisfying when Wong beats them up in many of the fight scenes they have.

As for our dastardly villain in Yen Shi-Kwan, well, he's his usual shifty self. In fact, he's so shifty that he goes to great lengths to kill anyone who deals with him, even those he personally hires to take out the heroes. It seems he's so desperate to cover his tracks he's probably kill his own grand mother if she caught him doing something wrong. Though he handles himself well in the action scenes and even gets to throw down with Eddy Ko who plays a man out to get revenge on him. Quite why he's so determined to do so is never made very clear but it's always a treat to see Eddy in action, especially against Yen.

It goes without saying that the action is the only reason to tune into this one. Ching Siu-Tung handles the choreography and it's interesting to see his style before he went all wire-fu later. Everybody and I mean everybody gets to really show off in this. Casanova Wong delivers on what has to be some of the best fight scenes he's ever recorded and given the films he's been involved like The Iron Fisted Monk and Warriors Two that says a lot.

Still, all that great action is almost derailed when the film's plot decides to shift onto Wong's co-stars. While they try and think of a way to help him out they meet Beggar Su, the popular fictional character who appeared in films like Drunken Master and King of Beggars. Here he is played by Max Lee. This is where it gets really irritating as we have to bare witness to some painfully unfunny comedy antics and it almost ruins the momentum the film had going up to this point.

Fortunately just as you're about to bash your head in from the sheer stupidity of it all we shift back to Wong's story. Sadly it doesn't last long as we end up baring witness to a over long sequence set in a brothel. What should have been a very short scene ends up going on for far too long, there's a little bit of action but I think you may forgive yourself skipping it as it's not very long and not to the standard the rest of the movies had set.

So I think I'll move back to the action as I think talking more about the story and the acting will cause me to throw my computer out the window and that would just be silly. Unlike Method Man, Casanova Wong actually goes beyond the call of duty and is able to seriously go all out in what has to be a stunning finale fight sequence. Ching Siu-Tung seems to have been a much stronger and much more creative action director when dealing with traditional kung fu films. As much as I enjoy his later work this has to be one of best films he has ever done.

Pleasantly surprised is a word I would use to describe this particular film. Surprised in just how good the action is but also surprised in just how bad everything else is. Would I recommend it? oh, absolutely but it might be worth keeping the fast forward and mute buttons handy so you don't have to subject yourself to the horrendous attempts at comedy.

1 comment:

  1. I seem to remember this having brilliant action, truly gobsmacking stuff. I must have watched it in a forgiving mood, as I found the 'comedy wackiness' to be mildly amusing at best, and tolerable at worst. However, I totally get where you're coming from. On another day, in another frame of mind, I'd probably fast forward those bits.

    Definitely worth a watch for the action, though, and some interesting camerawork, if I remember correctly.