Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Himalayan

Plot: Kao Chu (Chen Sing) attempts to usurp local patriarch Chang, using a doppelganger of his brother (the bridegroom of Cheng's daughter Chang Ching Lan (Angela Mao)) to ensure he becomes a player in the patriarch's household.Household dogsbody Chin Kang (Tan Tao Liang), a childhood friend and lowly admirer of Ching Lan, rumbles that all is not well, and is chased from the household, closely followed by Chin Lang who has now been framed for killing the doppelganger. All this chaos leaves Chang the patriarch in need of a nice sit down, and so he retires and hands all power to Kao Chu. Our heroes flee to the local monastery, whose Abbot (played by director Wong Fung) teaches the 'Mi' style, a different form to Shaolin. There they learn techniques to defeat Kao Chu's infamous tiger claw, and the scene is set for a furious finale....

Production: worth mentioning here that Golden Harvest and Raymond Chow put a good effort in and they're clearly proud of it: the film even starts with a spoken intro of the Mi style. The Himalayan scenery is magnificent, with beautiful shots of the Tibetan plateau, temples, Chang's household and a local festival. This includes a race to see who can spear a chicken from horseback, no surprise that it's Sammo Hung as the winner! Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao also have cameos.

Fights: Terrific, there's something for everybody (except maybe shapes-only fans!). Chen Sing mixes it up with ferocious Tiger Claw, all upper-body bullying but with some beefy hoof chucked in for good measure. He has notable dust-ups with a local blackmailer at a stunning temple; gets some decent legwork in against Chang's loyal advisers; and bullies a (surprisingly kick free at first) Tan Tao Liang. There are decent one-on-one and one-v-many throughout, and a brutal bundle to end it all: Sammo v Flash Legs, Flash Legs v many, Angela v Chen Sing and finally our heroes deliver a vicious (and ingenious) pasting. It's here that Flash Legs finally unleashes his full kicking arsenal, and it's worth waiting for. Even the patriarch gets involved and gives a good account. Great stuff all round.
Incidentally, there's a neat flashback fight between Angela and Flash Legs' characters as children, with the kids showing terrific legwork - I wonder what became of the actors...?

Training: Patient, novel training sequences featuring strength and breath control, under the watchful eye of the grumpy Abbot. The kicking training is highly suspicious though, involving anti-gravity handstands...but still fun.

Performances: Man of the match is undeniably Chen Sing. He's a booming, gnashing, guffawing villain; cheerfully murdering anyone who may be in his way; including his girlfriend following a softcore sex scene! He's equally menacing in the fights, he looks utterly furious and menacing when he muscles in. He reminds me of a Film Noir villain in the sadistic glee he takes in causing utter misery to all.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5; some may be put off by the pacing which is slow in parts, but it's worth being drawn into the plot. The final fight is terrific, just be prepared for a sudden and odd ending!
Version watched: Bonzai, fullscreen, 90 min, dub, picture/sound good.

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