Starring Stephen Chow, Ng Man Tat, Sharla Cheung, Norman Chu
Fight Choreography by Yuen Cheung-Yan
Directed by Gordon Chan
There have been many stories told about Beggar So, the creator of Drunken Boxing, and one of the Ten Tigers of Canton, the most recent being the terrific film True Legend, but before that funnyman Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) had his own fictional take on the legend, and continues to grow in the realm of kung fu comedy…
Chow stars as So Chan, the spoiled rich child of General So (Man Tat) who spends his days messing around, even though his kung-fu skills are second-to-none, and on his birth day evening he goes to a brothel and falls in love with Yu-Shang (Cheung), a secret member of the Beggars Association who is trying to get close enough to kill Chiu Mok-Kei, a magician and martial arts master who killed her brother. So Chan covets Yu-Shang, which draws the ire of Mok-Kei (Chiu). Just to get rid of So Chan, she promises to marry him if–and only if–he can be crowned the Master of Martial Arts in a tournament held a few days hence. So Chan goes to the tournament, and has his father help him to cheat through the written portion of the test as So Chan can’t read or write, as he never considered it important before. Chan wins the tournament after his opponent cheats, but it is revealed to the Emperor that So Chan cheated the written portion of the exam since he cannot read, and after the Emperor gives So Chan a test that he immediately fails, and an enraged Emperor has all of the So family’s belongings confiscated, and the So’s are ordered to spend the rest of their lives as beggars.
So Chan goes into a depression, but tries to come out of it with help from Yu-Shang, who feels responsible for Chan’s current predicament. After an altercation and causes Chan’s arms and legs to be broken by Mok-Kei, he and his father join the Beggars Association, and find that they have to aid them in exposing a plot by Mok Kei to kill the Emperor, but before that So Chan has to heal and discover a new way of fighting…
King Of Beggars is a fun movie, that is full of Hong Kong style humor, and true to Stephen Chow’s style some standard scenes are raised up as he humorously plays with audience expectations. Chow does a good job of going from comedy to drama to action and back again, and a few scenes have both, but Chow keeps everything moving along smoothly. Ng Man Tat also does a great job providing further comedy as So Chan’s father, and is able to play off of Chow really well, especially as he has to provide the comedy relief when Chow has to play things seriously. Norman Chiu is a right bastard as he normally is in action films, playing Mok-Kei with the right amount of arrogance mixed with confidence. Sharla Cheung is mostly the damsel in distress, but plays it well.
The fight scenes are well done but are really short, and full of wire-harness and special effects, going for a more fantasy tone than a realistic one. My favorite fight is the fight versus the three masters who test Chan after he becomes Beggar So, and uses his drunken boxing for the first time. Chow doesn’t attempt to try to out-choreograph Jackie Chan or Jet Li’s version of Drunken Boxing and it was smart for him to do so, choosing a more effects-laden version that causes more chuckle than awe by design. You can see how some of the style of the fights would come back again in Kung Fu Hustle with much better special effects than shown here.
King Of Beggars showcases Stephen Chow’s brand of kung-fu comedy and positions him for the kung fu comedy classics to come.
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):
CHOREOGRAPHY: (6) What was there was good, but a bit too effect-sy for me. None of it is meant to be remotely believable, and isn’t.
STUNTWORK: (6) The stunts are okay, but nothing to write home about. Everyone did what they should, but there weren’t any really memorable stunt scenes.
STAR POWER: (8) Stephen Chow’s star was on the rise, and Norman Chu is a good villain as always. Sharla Cheung was in the middle of her stardom in this film. The other stars were good, but no one upcoming of note.
FINAL GRADE: (7) Not nearly Stephen Chow’s best, but still a funny movie that retells the story of Beggar So in a new way.
NEXT: Germany and new star Mike Moller step into the ring with Urban Fighter!