Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hero of the Wild (aka Heroes of Shaolin)

Plot: Revenge with a twist. Bounty hunter Tu Tashan (Chen Sing) seeks out Yehai the hero to avenge a previous defeat. The now aged Yehai is beaten and commits suicide in shame, but begs Tu Tashan to save China from Ming traitors, specifically represented by Hwang Jang Lee (which is pretty convenient). Meanwhile Yehai's son Hsao Hu (Tin Kwa Chun) has watched his father's death and wants revenge on Tu Tashan: but Tu Tashan promises to train him and let him have a pop at killing him any time he wants.

As our heroes walk into town, they are commisioned by a masked (in fact, double-masked) stranger to kill Tien Luon Chong (Hwang Jang Lee). Which is handy, as they were going to anyway. They cheerfully take the strangers money after explaining their somewhat Trading Standards-unfriendly contract: "If we don't want to kill who you ask, we keep your money anyway".

Tu Tashan starts Hsao Hu's training in their idyllic cave by a forest waterfall (ah, if only all Martial Arts training was in that scenery, I'd do it all day long). Tu Tashan makes another challenge, against Lui Chan Yuan (the always brilliant Lo Lieh) but is defeated by trickery. As the duo make their way slowly to the challenge with Tien, there are some soul searching moments ("Should I kill my teacher - he killed my dad" etc.) but they suffer from the dubbing.

Tien's grandkids (including Yien Biao, hurray!) have a go at our chums, with the grandaughter Doris Lung) being the toughest. Tu Tashan has a first fight against Tien at the infamous plateau in Hong Kong where most films stage at least one fight; Tien winning but not killing Tu Tashan. Hsao Hu trains harder and the duo make a final challenge on Tien. However, the mysterious stranger returns to wreak havoc on everyone's plans....I won't spoil the ending!

Training sequences: Nothing special, a neat sword sequence by Hwang Jang Lee, and some perfunctory shapes/walking on jars/wooden dummy moments.

Fights: Tu Tashan fights punch-and-block with a bit of Eagle Claw throughout, which is not my personal favourite fighting style; but his fight with Lo Lieh is spirited enough to be good fun. The grandkid's all fight with weapons and there is some superb (and very fast) sword/staff/sai/spear choreography. As expected, Hwang weighs in with the kicking and as always, it's superb (although maybe not his best here, possibly due to overtight trousers).

Incidentally, the screenshot stems from a strange moment where Hsao demans a table to fight from: "Get me a table - I can fight from the table. At least that way I can die like a man". Well, if you insist...

Overall: 3.5 out of 5, a must for punch-and-block and weapon fans, but a bit slow in places