Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Prodigal Son - 1981

My first kung fu movie review, and what a treat it is to write it about a movie that  a) is one I've never seen before today and b) is as kick ass as this one.  This movie had me laughing, smiling, interested, and entertained for the entire film.

Sammo Hung directs this 1981 classic film, in which rich kid Leung Chang is, at the beginning, a spoiled brat.  His father is so afraid of him getting hurt that he literally pays other martial artists to lose their fights with him.  So at the beginning, Chang thinks he is the greatest fighter ever to walk the land.  300 fights and he is still undefeated! One night, a couple of his bodyguards go to the opera where they are drawn in by the Leung Yee-tai, who, in drag, is playing a female opera singer.  They make moves on the singer, unknowing of his gender, in a hilarious scene.  Then things turn violent and they get their asses kicked.

Well the next day, Chang decides to confront Yee-tai about him beating Chang's bodyguards.  The only thing is, Yee-tai won't take the money to lose to Chang.  When Chang finds out his father has been fixing his fights, and then when he suffers an immediate defeat in martial arts at the hands of Yee-tai, he decides to become Yee-tai's disciple.  Yee-tai however, refuses to take him on.

Yee-tai is a traveling opera singer, that's his job.  One day he meets local tough guy Ngai Fei, who challenges him to a fight.  It is a draw because Yee-tai is sick.  When Ngai Fei's overlord hears he fought to a draw, he order Yee-tai's entire opera troupe killed!  So there's a really cool scene where a bunch of ninjas sneak in and slit about 20 peoples throats in like 5 seconds.  Amazing.

Yee-tai and Chang barely escape from the ninja ambush and go to live with Yee-tai's brother Wong Wah-bo.  Wong Wah-bo is played by Chinese megastar and director Sammo Hung, the guy is amazing, and hilarious.  In the first scene he's in he is demonstrating kung fu with calligraphy and it's a breathtaking scene.  Because 99% of what they do is real, and most of it is not sped up.  I would recommend this movie for that scene alone.

Anyways, Wong Wah-bo helps convince Yee-tai to train Chang, and also Wong takes to training Chang.  So then when Yee-tai is stabbed by some of Ngai Fei's bodyguards, it comes down to Chang vs. Ngai Fei, in disciple vs. master kung fu genius action.

This movie kicked my ass.  I had such a good fucking time at the theater just now.  Oh yeah, I did not mention, I got to see it at a theater!  Awesome.  The comedy was great and perfectly done  The kung fu was just the right amount, not too much and not too little.  The acting was perfect, the effects were great, the timing was top notch.  It may be elevated to high, high up on my list of kung fu movies.

Just so you know, I'm not like a giant kung fu guy.  I like my Jackie Chan, my Bruce Lee, my Donnie Yen and Jet Li films....but that's mostly it.  I'm not like the biggest kung fu nerd.  I have nothing but nice things to say about this movie though.  I will definitely watch it again.

Two minor gripes:
1) How did a kung fu master like Yee-tai get killed by two lowly bodyguards with tiny knives...and did he get killed?  We never see what actually happened with him.  We know he got stabbed, but he definitely could've survived.
2) Would've been nice to see what ended up with Wong Wah-bo.  By the time you realize he's not going to be in the movie anymore, you forget what his last scene was and I left kind of wishing like a 2 minute additional scene played.  But, minor gripes.

I'm going to give it 4 stars, and as time goes on, when I rewatch it in the future, I may decide to upgrade to 5.  It was pure awesomeness.

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