霹靂拳
The Thunderbolt Fist (1972)


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 01/24/2007

The Thunderbolt Fist is your usual Shaw Brothers tale of revenge. A small village is taken over by the "nasty" Japanese, who kill the town's top kung fu fighter in order to scare the populace into submission. Escaping the wrath of the Japanese, the son of the master (Chuen Yuen) flees into the hills, where he trains with a group of rebels led by Gam Kei-Chu. Fast-forward ten years, and Chuen returns to the village armed with his father's secret technique of the "Thunderbolt Fist" with the hopes of killing the leader of the Japanese (James Nam Gung-Fan).

So, yeah, this is pretty much the same plot anyone who's seen more than a handful of kung fu films has seen many times over. And the mise en scene isn't going to win any awards -- it's pretty cheap, even by the Shaw's tight-fisted standards. Many shots are out of focus, and some even feature very visible wires and gaffes like shadows from boom mikes. There are quite a few fight scenes, but none of them are anything outstanding. The film-makers try to liven things up with liberal doses of blood, but most times, it comes off as terribly fake-looking. In the case of the final brawl -- whose end puts some of the fatalities in "Mortal Kombat" to shame -- the violence becomes just plain ridiculous.

What saves The Thunderbolt Fist from slipping into total B-movie hell is Si Si. Though she really only has a supporting role, she carries the whole film through her charm. She doesn't look all that great during the fight scenes, but she still lights up the screen with a "devil may care" attitude that is the perfect mix of cute and tough. If The Thunderbolt Fist had concentrated more on her character, then we might have had a real winner. Still, it does do a decent job of what it sets out to do, and if you're a fan of old-school flicks, there are a lot worse movies out there than this one.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: bmwracer
Date: 08/09/2006
Summary: Shih Szu is the star

What's special about this film is the nostalgia factor (for me) and its pretty (and deadly) star Shih Szu. Odd, though she has top billing in the movie, the two men, Nan Kung-Hsun and Chuan Yuan, are the main protagonists and they are the only two shown on the DVD cover. But Shih Szu does get more than her share of screen time to do some ass-kicking.

The film is formulaic in many respects, given the production date (1972): the noble Chinese vs. the wicked Japanese, the young son witnessing his father's death at the hands of the Japanese, and the son learning a special kung-fu technique (the Thunderbolt Fist) to get revenge. Throw in a considerable amount of kung-fu, swords, and bloodletting, and you've got a pretty good popcorn movie. People were so ga-ga about Tarantino's gore in "Kill Bill/Kill Bill 2," but folks, these Shaw Brothers flicks are where he copped it all from.

The kung-fu action is quite good, though the conclusion of the final battle between the hero Tie Wa (Chuan Yuan) and the villain Gu Gang (Nan-Kung-Hsun) was preposterous, even by kung-fu movie standards. Shih Szu's character, Die Er, steals every scene: she's petite with a pixie-cute smile, and conversely, lethal with a sword, her bare hands, and a belt chock full of throwing daggers. Honestly, the final battle was anti-climactic: seeing Shih Szu doling out loads of whoop-ass it what sells the film.

The video and audio quality of the Region 3 DVD was very good with no apparent scratches or flaws in the image. Color saturation was very good as well. There were a number scenes that were out of focus for some reason, and I think it was from the original source. Completing the DVD compilation were just the typical trailers and selected bios, nothing to write home about.

But thanks to Shih Szu, "The Thunderbolt Fist" gets an 8 out of 10.


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 06/11/2006
Summary: 6.5/10 - mostly bad film, but good action

Those dastardly Japanese are at it again, lording over the Chinese and killing people's fathers. A band of Chinese hide up in the mountains training their kung fu for a decade, before heading on into town to dish out some righteous revenge. The Thunderbolt Fist milks the anti-Japanese theme that was popular at the time for all it's worth, presenting as polarised a view of the 2 countries as any film I can recall. The plot has some similarities with SONS OF GOOD EARTH, but is a much much less sophisticated film overall.

Direction from Cheung Yat-Woo is also rather unsophisticated, except in the fight scenes, which are choreographed and filmed with a surprising amount of energy. Stylistically, it recalled KING BOXER at times, but not quite as impressionistic. Still, the fights do impress.

Lead actor Chuen Yuen is somebody I've seen in supporting roles quite often, but never as a lead before. He's not really leading man material - he's a bit dour, and frankly just too ugly! I can quite understand why the IVL dvd sleeve gives more prominance to villain James Nam Gung-Fan, though personally I would have devoted more space to Shih Szu. Speaking of Shih Szu, she is in great form here - her character is the most interesting and likeable in the film, and she is cute is a button in a role that suits her much better than most I've seen her in. She also comes off better in the fights than I've seen from her before, though some of her kicks are weak.

If it weren't for Shih Szu and the fights, the film would probably be rather awful. Luckily, there are a lot of fights, which account for most of the enjoyment to be had. If you're not into kung fu, probably safe to skip it - but you probably figured that out from the title :)

Reviewer Score: 6