Review: Knockabout (1984)

Starring Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Lar Kar Wing, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Mars

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Sammo Hung

While Jackie Chan was creating a new genre of police thriller in cinema, Sammo wanted to put a final stamp on the old school period films, and with another collaboration with Peking Opera School brother Yuen Biao, whom he previously worked with on Dreadnaught and Prodigal Son, they tried to knock another one out of the park, and absolutely did.

The film starts as two thieves, Yi Pao (Biao) and his brother Tai Pao (Beardy), spend their days trying to rip off the local casinos in their small village. After a casino fight where they eventually gets their asses handed to them, not having learned their lesson, they try to rip off an old man in a restaurant named the Fox. Now you might think that a dude named the Fox is someone not to trifle with, but neither brother is exactly a rocket scientist, and after their swindle fails they decided to pull the ole’ jump-a-dude-on-a-dirt-road trick, but any guy named the Fox would be wise to this, and after delivering a beating the likes of which both brothers have never experienced they beg for the Fox to teach them, which he agrees to. After a time they are also screwed with by a beggar (Hung) who takes a keen interest in them both. But both brother are unaware that they are in great danger, and are also unaware of the true nature of their master…

Sammo delivers another fun kung-fu and acrobatics film. The production values are similar to most of those types of films, meaning low, even reusing sets from previous kung fu films, but who cares? Your watching this film to see a fun story along with good kung fu, and you get both here. Yuen Biao plays Yi Pao with the same playful fun he approaches many of the characters he played during that time period of his career. It helps that he has an equally game actor in the great Beardy, he of the magically awesome beard. They both play so well off of each other you’d think they really were brothers. Lar Kar Wing also plays a great villain in The Fox, and is able to come off as the good master in the beginning, but he’s also great as his true nature is revealed. Jackie Chan co-hort Mars comes into play as a cop who is looking to put the Fox away.

The fights are terrific as you would expect from a Sammo Hung film. The best fights are the fights of Yuen Biao and Beardy versus two killers sent to get the Fox, one of which is played by the great Hoi Sang Lee (36th Chamber of Shaolin) and the finale fight of Sammo and Yuen Biao versus Lar Kar Wing. Their fight is an acrobatic showdown that features both Sammo and Yuen doing monkey style to defeat Lar Kar Wing, using some of the best monkey kung fu moves committed to film. There is also a fantastic training sequence as Sammo’s character teaches Yuen Biao monkey style. The form is a fantastic showcase for both men as they couple it with some tremendous somersaults and flips.

Knockabout is a good old fashioned kung fu film that features some great fight choreography along with some good comedy moments. Not quite as good as Prodigal Son, but it’s still a crazy fun film you won’t want to pass on.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Some of Sammo’s best choreography here. Everyone does a fantastic job pulling it off. The finale is the best fight of the bunch, but they are all uniformally great.

STUNTWORK: (7) Yuen Biao does some good work here, as does Sammo himself. Nothing too spectacular, but nevertheless solid stuff.

STAR POWER: (9) Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Lar Kar Wing. Toss Beardy in there and we have a winner!

FINAL GRADE: (9) A funny collaboration between Sammo and Yuen Biao that never gets old. This is one of their best together, and allows these Peking Opera brothers to really strut their stuff.

NEXT: I’ll be judging short films for Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas later this week, and will review a few of them here afterward (Ray Park is in one of them).


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