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6 Mar 2013

HAPKIDO - LADY KUNG FU

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  07:30   SAMMO HUNG

Hapkido Cover Now the Spice Girls thought they knew what 'Girl Power' was really all about. But they don't. No way. They don't know the meaning of the term. It was the Kung-Fu chick seen in this flick who defined this feminist-phase. You know, this flick Directed by Feng Huang; and Starring: Sammo Hung, Angela Mao, and Carter Wong. It was kicked into touch in 1972, and lasted for a whole 97-minute's.


Hapkido AKA Lady Kung Fu


THE STORY:
Do you honestly think that the Hapkido-trio of Kao Yu Ying (Angela Mao), Kao Chang (Carter Wong), and Fan Wei, (Sammo Hung), are able to comply with the wishes of their wise Master, Shih Kung-chan (Han Jae Ji), and spread peace and love amongst their oriental brethren? Moreover, that when they set up a school in a non-descript ancient Chinese province, they won't piss off their Japanese oppressors in the process?

Well, they try their best I suppose. Going from place to place, informing their Asian buddies about their new form of Korean self-defence. Still, I'm afraid to say that a rival Japanese school -- called 'The Black Bear' gang -- don't take too kindly to their presence if truth be told.

Yeah. No word of a lie. 'The Black Bear' gang are right bunch of b*stards. Causing trouble at a cafe. Ogling girls whenever they can. And beating up whomever crosses there path for the sheer hell of it.

Granted, one of the trio -- Fan Wei -- doesn't like the sight of the Black Bears actions one little bit. And over the course of a day or two, he steps in and fights back Hapkido style. Also, just to emolliate these proceedings with a touch more candor, another of the trio -- Kao Chang -- tries to abate Fan Wei's retaliation, by approaching the master of the 'Black Bear' gang, intending to sorts out this mess more amicably.

However, that's most probably why what next transpires all kicks off when Fan goes into hiding, and Kao gets the wok beaten out of him. As an apology goes eskew - three becomes two - careful who you spar - and thank wok that salvation comes from home and afar.




THE REVIEW:
Now whilst watching 'Hapkido', I couldn't help but ponder how similar it is to a lot of films made by the late great, Bruce Lee. Most of the actors in it have worked with him in the past. The story-line is on par with most of his 'avenger-type' tales. And even that chap who plays the interpreter in most of his films -- Ping-Ao Wei -- plays a very similar part in this one too.

Angela Mao Lady Kung Fu
Here, check out these filmic facts to get a better idea of what I mean by this. (1) According to Hong Kong film expert, Bey Logan, this adventure was being made at the same time Bruce Lee was making 'Fist of Fury' at 'Golden Harvest Studios'. Also, it has been alleged that Bruce passed-up being in this film so he could star in the aforementioned one. (2) Hapkido is a Korean form of martial art that enables the 'user' to gain advantage over an opponent, with the use of leverage, cleaver footwork, locking techniques, and body positioning, whilst avoiding the use of 'strength against strength'. (3) You're not mistaken, Hong-Kong film fans, there are an awful lot of cameos scattered though out this film. Yuen Biao and Corey Yuen both play two of the Japanese martial arts students. Billy Chan and Ching-Ying Lam both play the fighters in the Marketplace. And, of course, that's Jackie Chan playing one of the 'Black Bear' gang. (4) This was the only time screenwriter, Yan Ho, ever wrote a script for the silver screen. (5) This film has been known by three other names in it's time: 'He qi dao' -- its original Mandarin title. 'Lady Kung-Fu' -- its American derivative. And 'Dynamique Dragon contre Boxers chinois' -- its French counterpart. (6) As I mentioned previously, there is a strong Bruce Lee connection running throughout this movie. Angela Mao played Bruce's vanquished sister in 'Enter the Dragon'.  Sammo Hung sparred with him at the beginning of the very same film. Hwang In-Shik was Bruce's penultimate combatant in 'Way of The Dragon'. And Han Jae Ji was the same but in 'Game of Death' instead. (7) The director, Feng Huang, left the movie industry in 1980. The last film he directed was in 1978, called 'Iron Maiden', which starred Angela Mao. Furthermore, the last film he produced was in 1980, called 'The Victim', which starred Sammo Hung.


Angela, Carter, and Sammo in Hapkido / Lady Kung Fu


Do you see what I mean, dear reader? 'Hapkido' has a lot of ties to Bruce, doesn't it? Plus if you look very closely at this piece, you'll also notice a lot of other actors who have starred with him in the past as well. Like 'Way of The Dragon's' Di Chin for example.

Angela Mao Lady Kung Fu Asian Film Poster
But enough of that for now, huh? What you most probably want to know is how good this film really is? Right? Well, from my own perspective, it's bloody fantastic. The story-line is more progressive than the usual 'avenger' type adventure from this era, with the main protagonists clearly defined, each of them staking a claim on what their respective characters are supposed to represent. Sammo is the rebellious youth. Carter is the stoic diplomat. And Angela is the balance between these two the men.

Also, I have to say that this flick is quite shocking in places as well. It really does take a left turn here, and a sudden departure there, making you wonder how it's all going to turn out at the end. And this -- from my own point of view -- if greatly aided by one of the stars of the show, Angela Mao.

Honest to God, if Bruce had tits he'd be her. Angela does the lady's really proud in this movie; kicking ass and taking names like no other female action star has done since (well, except for Michelle Yeoh of course). In addition to this, both Sammo and Carter pull of a pretty decent job in the process. Each of them really reinforcing 'the whole' through character and action, propping up what could have been a rather clichéd tale considering what has come out before it.


Angela and Jackie Chan in Hapkido


Granted, in places, the actions scenes are a bit too 'wavy arm' for my own liking. But overall 'Hapkido' is a great film. The story is an engaging one to follow. The characters show character. And if you are a Bruce Lee fan, I'd say that this classic slice of Hong Kong cinema is defiantly worth a watch.

No doubt about it.

THE RATING: A

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