Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dreadnaught

All 130 Yuen Biao films should be watched by everyone, now, and this is one of the best places to start.

Plot: Like his universally acclaimed Prodigal Son, Dreadnaught is an action comedy involving the traditional Chinese theatre. Yuen plays 'Mousy', a milquetoast laundryman who has unwittingly practiced his grandfather's Eagle Claw kung fu technique every day when wringing and hanging the laundry. He is, however, too cowardly to collect payment from the locals, much to the chagrin of his big sister. So it's up to one of Wong Fei Hung's pupils, Fong (Leung Kar Yan, sans beard for once!) to encourage him to stand up for himself. Meanwhile, twitching psychotic White Tiger is on the lam and ends up in town. He teams up with Wong Fei Hung's rivals in an attempt to destroy them.

Fights: This is Yuen Woo Ping at his most inventive: no wire work; just superb, inventive choreography. Highlights include a fight between the incredible Kwan Tak Hing (who plays Wong Fei Hung in his older, respected physician years) and a belligerent patient, whom he cures whilst fighting; and later a demon tailor (the always menacing Fung Hak-On) who is desperate to slice Wong up, but ends up unintentionally measuring him for a suit as Wong evades his attacks. Leung Kar Yan shows minimal chops as he is in a cameo, but at least we get a good dragon race sequence (a la Young Master) that involves him. Also his end fight with the 'twin demons' in the opera house is creepy and pretty original.

Since Yuen's character is no fighter to start with, he is limited to two fights; but both excellent: a chase with White Tiger that is equal to Project A, and the final showdown which also includes Wong Fei Hung: Mousy's laundry technique is used to overcome White Tiger's 'shooting sleeve' and the acrobatics are outstanding.

Trivia: The 'Kung fu laundry' scene was copied (almost identically) by Chris O'Donnell in 'Batman & Robin'

Version watched: HKL print

Overall: 4.5 out of 5, superior pacing and comedy, with inventive acrobatic fights

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