Sammo Hung’s classic comedy take on the Little Dragon…
Writing about the Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and failing to mention his boot camp-like ‘tour of duty’ Peking Opera School-a sort of a (in)famous Acting/dancing/martial arts for kids known for its strictness (where he was trained from nine to his early teens) would be like talking about the most famous Hercules of them all, Steve Reeves, and not mentioning his triumphant world bodybuilding titles.
After leaving that famous school (a fictionalized version of which was the basis for the movie Painted Faces, with Hung playing a character based on one of the school’s most feared real-life taskmasters) his career evolved over nearly five decades. Sammo has since, risen from his humble beginnings as an background extra to stunt-player at the famous Golden Harvest Studios to become one of the most influential and prolific innovators in Asian films, constantly discovering new stars and creating new trends in Action Cinema. His ground breaking work, as actor, Second Unit Director, Fight Choreographer, director, writer and producer has given birth to some of the most creative daring and exciting action-adventures ever made. His creative genius can be felt in over 160 motion pictures, Enter The Fat Dragon probably being his most remembered movie among western audiences to date. His sophomore turn as a lead director is pivotal for many fans and industry critics; his intricate hi-impact action choreography and fluid hi-energy camerawork is without equal.
Ostensibly a sweet-natured parody of Bruce Lee films (bits of Enter The Dragon – in which Hung had a small part – and mostly Way Of The Dragon) this classic tribute pokes fun at the then-burgeoning Bruceploitation subgenre (the slew of cheap ripoffs from Chinese, Korean, Thai and Filipino Bruce Lee imitators that were flooding the market from the moment box office records were smashed by the grosses in Lee´s pics) and the overall Hong Kong industry itself. Sammo´s impression of the iconic Bruce´s mannerisms is eerily (and amusingly) spot on, and even if the fights don’t match up to Sammo’s best of the era, there’s plenty of impressive action and some actually amusing humour.
Written by veteran scribe Ni Kuang – also known as Ngai Hong and Ni Yi-Ming (the mind behind such legendary titles as the Five Masters Of Death (aka Five Shaolin Masters) and Shaolin Temple), with its tongue placed firmly in-cheek, the plot follows a simpleton pig farmer-who´s Bruce´s biggest fan – who is summoned to the big city in order to help his uncle run his food stand. bad guys try to muscle their way to a free lunch, and Sammo makes them pay the check. Then his girlfriend is kidnapped because she reminds a wealthy bad guy of the only woman to turn him down. Three more bad dudes on the rich guy’s payroll try to get beat the hero, One is a mean-spirited karate expert, and another is a redneck kickboxer. Most laughable is the “black” fighter, who’s really an Asian gentleman with really bad make-up (complete with an afro that looks like a fur ball, 70’s sideburns, and glaring red bellbottoms). Obviously a fun stab at Jim Kelly in Enter the Dragon, the guy is sheer ridiculousness incarnate.
Sammo built his career on being surprisingly agile for a pudgy guy, and his characters are normally underestimated for being lazy before blowing people’s minds with his shocking arse-kicking skills. Hung is working double duty here as both actor and director, and he shows a strong talent for capturing fight scenes, particularly in the finale with a series of henchmen being beaten by the hero, which could have easily felt claustrophobic with the three fights taking place in an enclosed warehouse.
The humour for the most part is some of the best you’ll find in Hong Kong films from this period, and there are many comic set pieces that deliver the chuckles. Straight-faced Roy Chow is a highlight, as well as Peter Kwan as the troubled Professor Pai. The usual sight gags and misunderstandings are all here but delivered in such a way as to be entertaining despite the predictability of it all.
The pros certainly surpass the roughness-around-the-edges of the cons. Well worth a look.