Leung (John Chang) is the second son of a fish merchant, so as you might expect, his life sucks. When a client's wealthy son decides to beat him up for fun, enough is enough and joins a local dojo specializing in Drunken Boxing. Later when his master is killed by two members of the Snake clan, he must fuse Monkey style with Drunken Boxing to avenge his master.
It's hard not to just tell you what these old movies are about without spoiling them. The narrative isn't constructed like western films. It's just a slow build of of increasingly cool fight sequences until the last one. This story is a pretty common one in martial arts movies. The flunky who's teased and abused by others trains doubly hard and becomes the best, only to later have to avenge his master's death by developing something new. This movie is basically just a rip off of 'Snake in the Eagles Shadow' and 'Drunken Master' mashed together without that Jackie Chan guy. The title itself is the biggest give away. 'Snake in the Eagle's Shadow' was about Snake style trying to hide from the Eagle clan that wanted to stamp it out. It was in the shadow of the superior Eagle style. This movie was kinda the opposite, but they stuck with the syntax. Look! There's plenty of room here on Jackie Chan's coattails!
If there's one thing to take away from this film it's this: If someone swears to kill you if you don't kill them, you should kill that person-- no matter how confident you are that they won't be able to follow through with their threats... because they probably will. There's like three scenes where someone is like "If you let me live I will take my revenge" and the other guys is like "whatever, dude"
The criticism leveled against the film for ripping off Jackie Chan aside, I wouldn't mind if more films did it, as long as they did it this well. This film is chock full of kung-fu from beginning to end. All the martial arts are performed by highly capable players in traditional kung-fu fight sequences featuring loads of the fan pleasing Drunken Boxing, Monkey, and Snake-style. Throw in a little swordplay and a little Tiger-claw/Mantis-fist and you have almost everything a martial arts fan could hope to see in a kung-fu movie. The plot's been seen before, but in these movies, the plot is often just something we need to get us from one fight sequence to the next. This movie is around 70% fighting 30% other stuff, which I believe is actually the technical spec for creating a good kung-fu movie.
This film has a couple problems (silly training scenes, snake style is sometimes treated a little cartoonishly, and a plot that reads like someone shuffled together the pages of two Jackie Chan scripts) but the kung-fu more than makes up for these complaints. If you're looking for a traditional seventies style kung-fu movie and haven't seen this one yet, you're missing out.
Finally caught up on requests now, so if you have a martial arts or Asian film your wondering about, let me know and I'll take a look at it!
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