Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Daggers 8

Plot: Ah Chung (Meng Yuan Man) lives with his grandfather and practices Kung Fu whilst supposed be studying. After his brother Ah Wong turns up dead with a mysterious note accompanying his body, grandfafther locks up Ah Chung to forbid him practicing Kung Fu, to avoid a similar fate. Ah Chung soon escapes and in turn hooks up with three teachers of differing styles: noodle cook Lau Su (Chan Lung), an acrobat (Tsui Chung Sun) and the apparently meek tailor Fong Chi (Lily Li). Meanwhile a mysterious killer Pau Siu Lung (Wilson Tong) is picking up contracts hidden in certain books at the local market - and these contracts are for Ah Chung's teachers! Without giving too much away, expect some treachery and doube-cross before the final showdown between Ah Chung and Pau Siu Lung.

Incidentally, it's never made clear what the mysterious letter was, or exactly why all the contracts are being made!

Training: Excellent, training is worked into the main body of the film rather than being some standalone sequences. Lau Sun trains Ah Chung forearm and grip strength through cookery, and leg strength through Mah Jong! The acrobat brings monkey style, so lots of rope-based tumbling practice. Finally Fong Chi is a master (mistress?) of 'Soft fist', which draws on her tailor training to develop focus and lots of flowing shapes; using spinning wheels, needles and clothes drying. Finally Ah Chung combines these into a 'catch the beggar' style, to combat the knifework of Lung in an ingenious way!

Fights: Really top notch. At the noodle restaurant we first have a fun bash between the noodle cook and the usual gang of thugs (you know the kind: barge in, demand food and hassle the ladies until our hero steps in). There is a decent monkey vs weapons fight featuring a spear'n'sword pair of bandits, and Ah Chung gets a slice of shapes humble pie for taking on Fong Chi.

But it's the Wilson Tong fights that are the showpiece here. Lung takes on the chef with fast punch & block that makes good use of the teahouse scenery. With the acrobat we get leg shapes and punch & block, with Fong Chi it's shapes all the way. Finally the fight with Ah Chung has it all: shapes, leg shapes, monkey tumbling, punch & block, and enough kicking to keep the boot fans happy. Also a nice technique to stop Lung dastardly cheating!

Top marks for the choreography of Wilson Tong and Yeung Wah.

Dialogue: Lung threats are hilariously menacing, and delivered like a Spaghetti Western villain. "You don't have the noodles I want" "Really? We have egg noodle, rice noodle, long life noodle..." "But not funeral noodle! For YOU!!". A good dub that doesn't slow anything down.

Version watched: Vengeance, Pal, 88 min. Says 'Widescreen' but not convinced it's the full ratio. Good picture and audio quality. Nice interview with Wilson Tong, who apparently swam from Taiwan to China (15 miles) to get work!

Overall: 5/5 - a no-nonsense classic with a plot that clips along nicely and some cracking p&b/shapes action!! A must have (especially at the budget price!).