Friday, 13 January 2012

Method Man A.K.A The Avenging Boxer (1979)

After witnessing the murder of his father at the hands of Casanova Wong, Peter Chen joins an acrobat troupe in hopes of improving his fighting skills and being able to avenge his father's death. The story is about as unoriginal as you can get but Method Man is another on a massive list of martial arts films that's heavy on the action and light on the story. It was also the film responsible for giving the well known rapper his stage name.

Musical connections aside, I was very much looking forward to watching this as Method Man is held in high regard among many kung fu film enthusiasts and have watched the film I can understand why some may think that but I must be very honest and say that this isn't a film that delivers on it's hype. 

The acting is run of the mill, so don't go in expecting some great acting among the great kicking. Lead actor Peter Chen comes off as yet another Jackie Chan wannabe. Which is unsurprising as any and all film producers  at the time were looking for another star in an attempt to dethrone Chan as the then King of Kung Fu Comedy. Chen proves confident enough and shows a little charisma and good comedic timing but it wasn't anything audience hadn't already seen by this point.

Casanova Wong plays the villain and what I find strange about Wong is that he's too friendly looking to be the bad guy. Guys like Hwang Jang Lee ,Wang In-Sik and many others all had that shifty look about them that just screamed "Look at me, I'm evil" at the audience but Casanova's looks don't lend themselves well enough to be the antagonist. His martial arts skills are absolutely brilliant beyond a shadow of a doubt but it just seems  he made a more convincing hero in movies.

Luckily it seems the filmmakers realized this and let his feet do the talking in the fight scenes he appears in. However this is where my main criticism of the film comes about.

The majority of the action, while competently choreographed is extremely pedestrian when compared to a lot of films of this era. The film had two incredibly talented people in Chen and Wong but for the majority of the run time, choreographer Wong Gwok-Chue doesn't fully tap into it. He tries to be varied as possible and I'll have to at least give him credit for trying.

One nicely done sequence involves Chen balancing on some table legs while his opponent tries to knock him down but the action leading up to it runs the danger of you becoming bored with the film. One thing has to be said though, it's a shame Chen never appeared in more high profile movies of this era. Had he been able to work with someone like Sammo Hung or Yuen Woo-Ping he could have easily become a big enough star in his own right but instead he's consigned to films like this.

However, despite my unenthusiastic reaction I was surprised just how good the action became in the last half hour of the film. So much so it was if someone had taken over the action directing duties. The choreography improves dramatically and becomes a lot more intense, harder, there's a more satisfying pace to them that it's hard to believe they were put together by the same man who had done the rather dull and uninspired fighting that had taken place earlier.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if someone else had done them as Hong Kong films are notorious for it's many personalities working in the industry doing uncredited work. The finale is absolutely worth putting yourself through the rest of the film and it delivers on what should have been the standard for the rest of the film. Both Wong and Chen get to really cut loose against each other and the stunt work, coupled with it's warehouse environment invokes the finale of Jackie Chan's Dragon Lord.

Method Man isn't the high impact classic that fans make it out to be but I would definitely recommend it to those who've yet to see it, especially fans of Casanova Wong as they'll be more then satisfied with what he gets to do in this one. See you next time, folks. Keep checking back as I'll be reviewing another Casanova Wong film The Master Strikes!

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