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os (1975)
The Man from Hong Kong


Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 03/26/2007
Summary: An interesting oddity

During a drug deal at Ayer’s Rock in Australia, a courier (played by a moustachio’d Sammo Hung) is captured. Refusing to talk (in English at any rate), the local cops bring in expert Chinese detective Fang Sing Ling (Jimmy Wang Yu) to make Sammo squeal. He eventually sings after a particularly nasty bout of police brutality and gives the name of “Wilton”, a Martial Arts expert and local crime Kingpin (played by a moustachio’d George Lazenby). Fang then goes on a rampage perusing Wilton by any means necessary.

I have fond memories of a pair of low-budget films by Brian Trenchard-Smith called DAY OF THE PANTHER and STRIKE OF THE PANTHER. I think they were made for TV, but they were quite enjoyable at the time. So I was looking forward to this 70’s nugget starring the recently departed star of the Shaw Brothers studio, “Jimmy” Wang Yu, in his one and only chance at international stardom.

The casting of Wang Yu as the hero (or the elusive “next Bruce Lee”) is an interesting choice. It’s a shame he is quite obviously dubbed by a white man (surely they could have found an Australian Asian to do a better job?) as the voice is terribly unconvincing (I’m not even convinced he’s speaking his Chinese lines). For the life of me, I can’t remember ever hearing his voice for real except in an recent interview, but I’ll bet my last dollar his voice sounds nothing like the deep rumbling timbre given to him here. It’s doubly a shame as if you watch his lips, you can tell is valiantly attempting the language and he was at least NEARLY there.

It’s quite obvious that ENTER THE DRAGON was used as a template for this film (surprise, surprise) as well as the Bond movies. The film starts with a theme tune that sounds as if it was rejected from a Bond film (“Sky High” from obscure British band Jigsaw – and by the way, that’s a bloke on vocals!) but is nevertheless catchy and memorable. What follows is a little less successful though, as the budget really didn’t stretch far enough to achieve the film’s ambitions. Low-budget 70’s productions have their own charm for me, but I found this one kind of teeters between the hokey and the more-or-less competent without really falling into either camp. In other words, it’s too good to be bad and too bad to be good, if you know what I mean.

The main problem I found was that there is hardly any actual Kung Fu in this movie at all. The director seems to have preferred instead to go for a grittier type of street fighting style for the film’s action scenes. Some have actually said that MAN FROM HONG KONG was way ahead of its time because of this. I’d have to disagree as I found some of the fighting looks dated and not at all convincing. Another problem is the pacing – the whole thing could probably have lost about 10 minutes and not been the worse for it. There’s a scene where Wang Yu chases and subdues an assassin that seems to go on about twenty minutes too long. In other scenes, a little trimming would have cut some of the fat off and left the whole a lot better paced.

One thing that seems completely “off” is the portrayal of female characters in this film. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be taken seriously (more about this later), but pretty much every woman is basically there just to have sex with Wang Yu. It’s odd, to say the least. I mean, I know this was shot in the aftermath of the swinging sixties but even so, it just feels...wrong.

It’s not a complete waste of time by any means. It’s always nice to see another nation making action films, and let’s face it, there aren’t that many Australian martial arts films (save for the two PANTHER films mentioned earlier). One thing it has going for it is the film score, which is typically funky and representative of the era. And it DOES have a few good moments in its action scenes (including a couple of decent stunts). Star spotters will no doubt see Yuen Biao in the scene where Wang Yu infiltrates the boss’s school (which manages to be reminiscent of both FIST OF FURY and ENTER THE DRAGON!).

Quite surprising is the presence of one-time Bond George Lazenby (who seems to have made a couple of these “chop-socky” affairs since making the foolish decision that Bond films were on the way out). It is probably a great compliment to Sammo that Lazenby doesn’t seem at all bad at fighting and makes a fairly good show of himself. He is introduced far too late in the film however (when you’d forgotten he was in it!), probably to minimise his fee!

One thing that did puzzle me is the contemporary publicity film included with the DVD. It clearly states that this is a comedy thriller and a James Bond spoof. However, I can’t for the life of me see what was supposed to be funny apart from the character of Morrie Grosse. It does make me think that maybe I might have missed something here and it was a lot subtler than I give it credit for.

An oddity, certainly, and one that should be seen. Just go in with lowered expectations.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 07/15/2006

Long considered one of the holy grails of Hong Kong movie fans due to the fact that it was not readily available outside of Austrailia (at least from legitimate sources), The Man from Hong Kong has been recently re-mastered and released on all-region DVD, giving an all new audience (this reviewer included) a chance to check out one of the more important -- if not exactly well-known -- entries in Jimmy Wang Yu's filmography.

The film's plot is pretty simple -- Wang Yu plays Inspector Fang, who travels to Sydney to bring a drug runner (Sammo Hung) back to Hong Kong. On the way to the airport, the criminal is assassinated, and so Fang sets off to bring down Sydney's big crime boss, Wilton (one-shot Bond actor George Lazenby), much to the chagrin of the local police department. Any sort of story is really just an excuse to get to the next action sequence, of which there are plenty. Sammo Hung also handled the action direction on this production, and his touch is evident -- he even got George Lazenby (who was said to be notoriously hard to work with, which is why he only played James Bond for one movie) to do a fire stunt for the final fight.

Most long-time HK movie fans know that Wang Yu wasn't as solid of an action star as some of his contemporaries, due to his coming from the sports -- rather than the martial arts -- world. But Wang Yu (under Sammo's direction) handles things fine here, and there are several scenes (such as a rambling fight through a restaurant and a car chase that manages to still be exciting even though it takes place on a nearly-deserted road) that stack up well against similar films from this period. Also, The Man from Hong Kong, for the most part, doesn't come off as dated as many films from the 1970's now do; even though the film-makers spend too much time on hang-gliding sequences, at least there's no disco dance-offs or polyester suits.

It's also interesting to note how progressive The Man from Hong Kong was (and still is) in presenting the relationship between the Eastern and Western worlds. Even though there are a few un-PC digs thrown at Fang (Wilton tells him "every Chinese I've met has a yellow streak"), it's certainly nothing like movies such as Lethal Weapon 4's infamous "flied lice" scene. Unlike every other Hong Kong crossover star, from Jackie Chan to Jet Li to Chow Yun-Fat, Wang Yu is involved with not just one, but two, women. And these are not just "a peck on the cheek" scenes -- they are full-on love scenes. In doing this, the character of Fang is elevated to something more than a castrati kung fu sifu; he becomes human. Finally, this was the first Hong Kong/Austrailian production. While it has not been a huge relationship over the years, it did lead to films down the line such as Jackie Chan's Mr. Nice Guy, which, of course, led to Chan's breaking into the American market with Rumble in the Bronx and the subsequent immigration of directors and actors to US productions.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: JUlibas
Date: 10/14/2003
Summary: Brutal, bone crunching movie from Wang Yu.

"Jimmy" Wang Yu stars and co-directs this international film. MFHK was supposed to be the film that launched Yu Wang's career as the "next Bruce Lee" despite the fact that he made several movies before Bruce Lee.

The film has several brutal fight scenes (directed by Samo Hung) the one that stands out the most is the one in the dojo between Yu and Wilson's kung-fu students. They use a variety of weapons to try and kill Yu. But, since Yu's the man he takes them all on leaving them lying in pools of their blood moaning in pain.

The fight between Lazenby and Wang is one of the highlights (Samo does a good job at making George look like he knows how to fight). Yu's the man in this film and he doesn't take guff from nobody.

I enjoyed this film very much. I saw the H.K. version, I've never seen the international cut of this movie.

Widescreen.

9/10


Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/03/2001
Summary: Ummm..........

When i first watched this when i was young, i REALLY liked this movie, but seeing it recently makes me think......why!!
Compared to today's standards the movie is quite poor. The action is slow and Wang Yu's voice must be dubbed, unless he does speak perfect english.........

3/10


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

No cliche is left unexploited in this spectacular example of 1970sgaudiness and bad taste. Detective Fang (Jimmy Wang Yu) is brought to Australia to interrogate a drug courier (Samo Hung). Fang is soon drawn into a web of intrigue involving the drug-trafficking "martial arts club", led by Wilton (George Lazenby), a master of Chinese language and kung-fu mysteries. For the (post-)modern viewer, there is much to amuse and entertain: Fang's hilariously inappropriate dubbed voice and whirlwind sexual adventures; execrable dialogue; gratuitous locations (eg. Ayers Rock); half-hearted stunts; and rampant political incorrectness, which also adds to the film's value as a historical document. (Which may be underestimated - an extended car chase through the Australian countryside seems like a precursor to 'Mad Max', and indeed two actors from 'TMFHK' later appeared in 'Mad Max'.) The euphoric, timewarped sensation of the film is further enhanced by Jigsaw's 'Sky High', which plays in the opening and closing credits, and some bold attempts at "street talk". In all, a fascinating curio - somewhere between Bruce Lee and James Bond, but reaching the heights of neither.

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]