Archive for the Kwan Tak-Hing Category

Review: Dreadnaught (1981)

Posted in Fung Hak-On, Kwan Tak-Hing, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Yuen Biao, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on September 29, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

starring Yuen Biao, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Kwan Tak-Hing, Yuen Shun-Lee, Fung Hark On

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Yuen Woo Ping

**Special thanks to Lars Nilsen, Chase Whale, and the entire Fantastic Fest crew for presenting this film in glorious 35mm!**

It’s becoming quite apparent that during the early eighties Yuen Biao was rocking along in period films quite nicely whether it was Sammo Hung or Yuen Woo Ping behind the camera. I would go so far as to say that this was arguably the finest period of Yuen Biao’s career, and these films also teamed him up with some really interesting performers, and for Dreadnaught Woo Ping also decided to let his freak flag fly high in the sky (aren’t those song lyrics?)

Dreadnaught starts as we meet criminal and possible Batman villain White Tiger (Shun-Lee) who is fleeing with his pregnant wife who also happens, pregnant or not, to be just as big a douche bag as her husband. While stopping at an outdoor rest stop, one that has been used for kung-fu confrontations on film for years, thus they should’ve known better, they are ambushed by a group of bounty hunters, whom both White Tiger and his wife kill, but in the battle Tiger’s wife and unborn child are killed, which drives White Tiger crazy.

We then meet Mousy (Biao) a nice guy but without a doubt the biggest chickenshit in town. He runs a laundromat with his harpy of an older sister, and he is currently having problems collecting payment on the work they do. Mousy yearns to join his friend Ah Foon (Beardy, without the beard) and become a kung fu student under the great Wong Fei-Hung (again, as always, played by the legendary Kwan Tak-Hing). Wong has other problems to deal with, such as Master Tam, who has a crazy hard on to beat Wong Fei-Hung at, well, anything and kill him at any cost. After interrupting lion dance that turns into one of Woo Ping’s best choreographed fights ever, he tries to have the Demon Tailor (played by Hark-on) kill Fei-Hung, and of course fails miserably.

White Tiger shows up, and being an old friend of Master Tam, decides to hide out nearby with a traveling performance troupe. Things turn nasty when White Tiger meets Mousy, and because of Mousy’s charm, which reminds Tiger of his dead wife’s, drives Tiger mad with rage as he tries to kill Mousy again and again, and before long Mousy must stand his ground, and finds that he may already know more kung fu than he ever thought possible…

Dreadnaught has to be one of Woo Ping’s funniest and entertaining films. Amidst the danger there is always humor throughout, and all of the actors play themselves to their iconic best. Yuen Biao plays the clueless Mousy as he does will many of his characters during this time frame: fun, immature, crazy, and not exactly…smart. Beardy is his charming best and once again plays very well as the macho counterpoint to Biao’s man-child. Kwan Tak-Hing has played Fei-Hung about a billion times, and plays him so well that you always want to see him win. Yuen Shun-Lee plays White Tiger as a complete nut job who is terrifying because his kung fu is so good, and he is a relentless killer. No chicken or frog is safe from this dude. PETA will not like this film.

The fight scenes have to be some of Woo Ping’s best work. I swear it seems as if he decided to just cut loose and shoot all the stuff he’s never been able to put in any other film. The Lion dance fight that really kicks it off is fantastic, especially when Fei-Hung jumps in. The scene is exciting, especially how the fight progresses while in the lion costumes. The drums bring out the already dance-like qualities of Woo Ping’s choreography. Another great fight is the one between Fei-Hung and the Demon Tailor, played by the always good Fung Hark-On (Police Story and dozens of other Shaw Brothers films). The fight is both hilarious and fast as the tailor uses kung fu to get Fei-Hung’s measurements, and then to kill him. Yuen Biao also has what has become the iconic kung fu clothes hanging scene, and f**k Joel Schumacher and the dude who played Robin for ripping the scene off wholesale in Batman Forever.

Beardy also gets a good fight with White Tiger, who uses a great costume to try to confuse Ah Foon, and the final fight between Mousy and White Tiger is one of the most imaginative fight scenes ever committed to film. It’s always been known how great Woo Ping’s fight choreography has been (The Matrix films notwithstanding) but here he’s fearless, and just empties that huge imagination on the big screen, and every actor and stuntman benefits from it. The audience benefits from one of the best kung fu films ever.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Every fight in this film is gold. The final fight turns the normal “final fight” into something unexpected as Mousy fights using his skills that at first glance isn’t kung fu, and Yuen Biao pulls it off beautifully.

STUNTWORK: (8) The stunts are not over the top, but are really well done. There is a lot of jumping and flipping around in this one.

STAR POWER: (9) Yuen Biao was in top form, as was Beardy, and it was great to see Kwan Tak-Hing as Wong Fei Hung.

FINAL GRADE: (10) Woo Ping went for broke with this one, and succeeded wildly. One of his best movies, so of course that makes it a classic kung fu film.


Review: Magnificent Butcher (1979)

Posted in Fung Hak-On, Hoi Sang Lee, Kwan Tak-Hing, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on May 6, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Sammo Hung Magnificent Butcher

Starring Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Hoi Sang Lee, Kwan Tak-hing, Fung Hak-on

Directed By Yuen Woo Ping

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo Ping

Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo Ping, both a few of the best fight choreographers anywhere, tag team on Magnificent Butcher, and the results are exactly what you would expect: a fun and inventive film full of great fight scenes and slapstick comedy.

Sammo plays the titular character Butcher Wing, a far from magnificent student of the actually magnificent Wong Fei Hung (played by Kwan Tak-hing, who’s played the character in over 75 films!). It isn’t that his Kung Fu is bad, far from it, but it’s because he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. He always has good intentions, but they always lead him into trouble. The film opens as Butcher is ripped of his two pigs by the local Butcher, but as he’s actually a much bigger idiot than Wing, and through double talking by Wing he winds up giving him 6 pigs instead. ( I take that back. Butcher Wing isn’t an idiot. He’s just in the wrong job. He needs to be on Wall Street.) He then stops a man whom he thinks is a thief, but as he does the entire film, rushes into fights before understanding what is happening and why. Which is why the guy he beats up, thinking he’s a thief, is actually the servant of a prominent Kung-Fu Master who was ripped off in a game of chance. Since he did just get his ass kicked, and didn’t want to admit why, he lies to his boss Master Kao, who has conveniently perfected the Cosmic Palm Technique. I would assume that he can now kick ass throughout the galaxy, and hopes to do so once space travel is invented. Before taking off Kao greets his shifty as shit son Tai Hoi, who quickly shows himself to be a perverted horn dog, lusting after his dad’s godneice.

Soon Kao and his Get Fresh Posse arrive to have it out with Master Wong for the slight against his man. Of course Wong is engaged in calligraphy at that moment, and Wong tries to teach him a few new strokes, by way of using brushes to whup Wong’s ass. But Cosmic Palm ain’t worth much against Wong Fei Hung’s Paintbrush Style, which may very well trump all. What follows is a very well done fight scene as Wong fights Kao but continues to write his words, which may very well say “pwnd” as Kao gets his ass handed to him, and by the way, never get behind your master and ask him if he’s gonna bow after getting beat. That will result in a bitch slap with a shoe. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it.

Fung Hak On Magnificent Butcher

Of course it comes out that Butcher Wing screwed up, and is punished by Master Wong by holding up vases filled with water in his mouth and arms. Ah, the days of corporal punishment. It’s at this time that Butcher’s fellow student, played by fellow Peking Opera School chum Yuen Biao plays a practical joke on Butcher by convincing a blind guy that Butcher Wing is a latrine. Hey, at this point either the comedy works for you or it doesn’t. I guarantee Will Ferrel or someone will rip this scene off soon.

Soon Butcher Wing’s brother Sai Kwong arrives in town, looking for Wing, not having seen him in over a decade. Unfortunately Sai and his wife run into Tao Hoi, who predictable starts ogling his wife, and scams them by saying that he’s friends with Wing, and gets some jackass to pretend to be Wing. Sai figures it out quickly enough, but gets beat up and thrown out of Tai Hoi’s home, and his wife is held captive. Meanwhile Master Wong leaves to go on a trip to buy herbs, leaving the school to his three students, which is akin to letting the inmates run the asylum, and of course all hell is going to break loose, and it does in spectacular fashion. Soon Tai Hoi, with balls of steel, walks down an alley only to get his ass beaten like…I don’t know, but it was bad. The person on the giving end of this is Sai, who wants his wife back. Once again Butcher runs in, not knowing what’s really happening, and beat Sai up, not realize he just jacked up his own brother. Tai Hoi decides, like the world class douche he is, to take advantage of this, and spins a lie to Butcher that the lady in question was his wife whom Sai had kidnapped. About this time another famous Chinese hero turns up in the person of Beggar Su, master of drunken boxing amongst other things. After saving Sai Kwong from committing suicide, he agrees to help him get his wife back. Soon Beggar Su comes face to face with Wing, and this leads to a hilarious and great fight scene between the two. Wing is defeated, but finds out about his brother and Tai Hoi’s Kung Fu Treachery (I ‘ve been waiting to say that.) . Unfortunately Tai Hoi escapes during the fight.

Later, Beggar Su and Wing infiltrate Tao Hoi’s house, and after beating up Tai Hoi’s buddies ( I assumed they were, because they suck as fighters) they make off with Sai Kwong’s wife, and in yet a another situation where Wing doesn’t think it through, they take the goddaughter of Master Kao with them. Soon the films takes a very dark turn as the goddaughter is killed by Tai Hoi during an attempted rape scene. Wing returns home to find her body, and Master Kao shows up just in time to think Wing did it. A terrific tension filled scene as you wonder how Wing is going to get out of this one. So, Master Kao and the Get Fresh Posse show up at Po Chi Lam and destroy the school sign, which instantly calls for epic asskicking, and it does in one of the two showstoppers in the film as Yuen Biao and a fellow student go up against Master Kao’s boys, one doing Monkey staff, and the other doing Fan fighting. Incredibly acobatic and a densely choreographed scene full of dozens of moves. Butcher arrives just in time to take a Cosmic Palm shot to the chest, and he and the other two students escape.

Beggar Su heals Wing by dunking him in a vat of advil, and soon starts training him in the 12 arms of Hung style. ( I love stuff like this in these old films, where the hero has to learn some new shit before fighting the main baddie. Nowadays these guys already know everything.) He learns just in time to fight the last of Master Kao’s boys, Wildcat, in a really acrobatic driven fight that is fun to watch, but Wildcat is no match for both as Beggar Su gives him the final death blow.

Kwan Tak Hing The Magnificent Butcher

Meanwhile, the only guy to witness the murder of Kao’s godniece tries to blackmail Tai Hoi, but winds up taking a knife in the gut for his trouble, but is able to run to the home of Sai Kwong before exiting this life, and Sai Kwong is killed, so his wife can escape getting gutted by Tai Hoi. She goes to Butcher Wing to tell him what happened, and Wing understandably flips his shit, and he goes to pay Tai Hoi a friendly visit, just to show him what happens when the head is struck incredibly hard with a large piece of wood.

This lead to the final fight, the second showstopper as Wing takes on Master Kao. Equally funny and exciting, this is why you want to see this film. This fight is one of the best you’ll ever see, and Sammo pulls out every trick in his bag, and with Woo Ping running the show the results are astounding. You won’t believe how many moves are in one camera angle before an edit. Soon he beats Kao, just in time for Master Wong to return, and has a new sign for the school, which turns out to be the wrong sign (my copy didn’t translate what it said. Damn Fortune Star.) One of the best of the old school films.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Of course a collaboration between Sammo and Yuen would turn out like this. Some of the most acrobatic fighting ever seen, and the number of moves in one scene is mind boggling.

STUNTS: (7) Pretty good, but no one does anything amazing, but the stuntmen throw themselves thrugh doors and windows well, and sells their scenes as they should.

DIRECTION: (9) Woo Ping knows how to shoot a fight scene, and where that camera needs to go for maximum effect. The story was well done, but the action is where it’s at here, and it doesn’t get much better.

STAR POWER: (8) Sammo Hung is all the star power this film needed, and he makes you laugh or stare in awe every moment he’s on the screen. Kwan Tak-Hing is the quintessential Wong Fei Hung, and always will be!

FINAL GRADE: (9) One of the best Kung-Fu films you can ever see, and a snapshot of the things to come from all involved. An absolute ass kicking classic.