Reviewed by: ewaffle
The Ching family and the Yao family might as well by the Capulets and the Montegues--or even the Hatfields and McCoys. Neither seems to stand for anything, neither side is really good or bad. They simply fight. There is a voiceover and illustrated map before credits which explain that Marshall Yao's troops are the only holdouts against the Ching invaders having withdrawn to the redoubt of Bullhead Mountain and created an all but impregnable defense but with his family left outside the defensive perimeter. General Ching, the grandson of the invading king, is leading an expeditionary force to capture Marshall Yao's mother and force him to surrender. The Yao family has a renegade helper, a youth who is the very picture of an outsider. He falls in with the Ching units who taunt him because his of his dark skin. Thinking he is just someone met along the road, one of the Ching retainers says to him, "So the dark boy wants to go into battle". He replies, "My father is darker than me but when Ching soldiers see him they run away", which they think is sheer braggadocio and bluff.
Reviewer Score: 4
He eavesdrops while Ching officers discus their plansa device used in B movies the world over in which both the character and the audience overhear the officers who are talking about their scheme, telling each other what they all must have known for weeks. In this case there is an added fillip of excitement when they reveal that a new coda to the scenario, killing the young man who is listening to them. He deals with this by getting the drop on the soldier sent to dispatch him and escaping to the Yao lines.
Marshall Yaos family has defensive lines around Bullhead Mountain because his sons have stopped quarreling among themselves long enough to rouse the surrounding population and train them overnight into skilled soldiers. The instant army consisted almost entirely of childrenno ideological or political problems with child soldiers in 1983, especially if they were defending the homeland.
The movie ends with a rousing set piece in which the Ching forces, their trained legionnaires having been defeated in battle a few times, decide to bring in mercenaries to assassinate the Yao leadership. There are four killers--one who uses the Iron Head technique, another who is expert in Eagle Claw plus two who use weapons--the
meteor hammer and the staff. The final fight is well choreographed and executed, the screen always filled with action and the details of individual combat coming through very well. General Yaos mother is safe, the Ching leadership has been killed and their army routed, the four assassins brutally sent to the next life and the next Yao generation shows it will be ready to take over when the general retires.
The wardrobe department must have had a great time putting together the hyper-opulent costumes particularly the very decorative but useless looking headgear worn by everyone.
The eldest Yao son falls in love with a princess, a granddaughter of General Ching who is accompanying the expeditionary force. They manage to snatch a few minutes alone while their armies are slaughtering each other but it is a relationship that is meant to fail and does so spectacularly.
The sword and spear fights were excellent but the mounted action looked unconvincing, poorly shot and cut and even a bit dull. It seemed as if the cavalry charges were shot and then the rest of the movie --the plot and characters--were fit in around them. This muddled what should have been a very simple storygood guys defend the family and nation against foreign aggressorsand made one even less interested in the outcome.
Not the worst movie of its type I have seenor even seen this monthbut not really recommended