Fong Sai Yuk (1993)

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/09/2005
Summary: Fun, Silly action comedy with a lot to offer......

The story is set during the Manchu dynasty (Qing Dynasty) in Canton. Fong Sai Yuk (Jet Li), a courageous young martial-arts expert (the best in town) beats up gangsters and bullies in a brawl and they swear vengeance against him, resulting in a chaotic fight. All involved, including Fong Sai Yuk, end up in jail. Fong Sai Yuk’s father is very displeased. Later Tiger Lei (Chan Chung-Yung), a local official, decrees that whoever can beat his wife, Siu Huan (Sibelle Hu in ‘Tai Chi 2’ aka ‘Tai Chi Boxer’), in a match will win his daughter Ting Ting’s (Michelle Reis) hand in marriage. Tiger Lei then builds an enormous scaffold on which the combatants will fight; the first fighter to touch the ground loses. Fong Sai Yuk gladly takes on the feisty mother. Unfortunately, after seeing the homely woman he takes to be Ting Ting, Fong Sai Yuk decides to lose the fight. His wild and paranoid mother (Josephine Siao Fong-Fong) is mortified by the potential loss of face. To save their family honour, she masquerades as Fong Sai Yuk’s older brother, Fong Tai Yuk, and defeats Siu Huan. Unfortunately, Tiger Lei insists that the victor should honour the marriage contract, something complicated by the fact that Siu Huan finds Fong Tai Yuk irresistibly handsome. While that misunderstanding gets untangled, another issue develops when the family learns that the patriarch Fong is a member of the notorious rebel Red Lotus Society, a group the governor has vowed to destroy with the help of Tiger Lei. Back again to the romantic travails, after much confusion, Fong Sai Yuk and Ting Ting agree to marry and begin preparing for their wedding. They hold a prenuptial feast, one that the governor (Zhao Wen-Zhou, ‘Fist Power’ and ‘The Blade’) attends. Chaos ensues resulting in the accidental shooting of Siu Huan and the capture of the elder Fong. This leaves Fong Sai Yuk to figure out how to save his father from losing his head to the vengeful official. The story’s climax involves a confrontation between the governor, Fong Sai Yuk, his fiancé, his crazy mother, and a town full of irate citizens. The ever-impressing leader of the red flower society Master Chan (Adam Cheng Siu-Chow also seen in jet Li’s ‘Last Hero in China’) also makes a special appearance at the end of the movie.

This movie is well developed with several interweaving sub-plots and well-placed twists. Jet Li is given an opportunity to dish-up a playful and cheeky side of his acting talent, which he delivers to an astonishingly charismatic effect. The action comes thick and hard and is delivered expertly (along with the expected powder effects to enhance the force of impact) in fast-forward mode 1990’s martial arts movies style by Yuen Tak and Corey Yuen Kwai. Almost all of the fight scenes involve hand-to-hand fighting with each action scene taking its time to deliver its effect and revolves mainly around one-on-one encounters (which are much better worked than the one-versus-many scenes). A big budget is apparent from the movies setting in detailed town areas with large crowds seen in many action scenes which are intelligently placed throughout the movie. The costumes are also very inspired and seem to out-do most present day movies including ‘Hero’, ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ and ‘House of Flying Daggers’.

Overall, Fong Sai Yuk dominates most of the screen time and other actors idolise him and make him the centre of attention throughout the time. This is not a downfall since the other actors deservedly get an opportunity to develop their own characters and Jet Li does not disappoint. Nevertheless, family loyalty does play a big role in this movie and sometimes gets irritating. The blend of genres including action, adventure, romance and silly comedy make this a very entertaining production for light-hearted fun that delivers at a high value.

Overall Rating: 7.9/10

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 05/02/2003
Summary: Hilarious with top notch action!

I was in stiches!!! Michelle Reis's dad is hilarious. Jet Li's mum is side splittingly funny. The action is involving, varied and all very well done. I love it!

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/31/2003
Summary: A must see HK movie

Fong Sai Yuk I&II were the first 2 HK movies I saw, though an accident of video recording meant that I had to wait at least a year to see the beginning of Pt I and the end of Pt II. Even in incomplete form, the two films were enough to make me an instant fan of HK Cinema (after years of disappointment with the Hollywood fare I'd been exposed to). I think they're possibly the best introduction to the territory's movie industry there could be... if you don't love Fong Sai Yuk, chances are Hong Kong Cinema is not the cinema for you. It's a rare example of everything coming together, if not perfectly then at least very well.

The solid script from Jeff Lau is the anchor without which the movie would not have succeeded. In typical Jeff Lau style it bounces all over the place, from stupid comedy to high (melo)drama via a little romance and the obligatory gender confusions, and of course leading into the incredibly imaginitive action sequences choreographed by director Corey Yuen and former opera brother Yuen Tak.

The production values for the movie are very high, if not quite as slick as the Once Upon A Time In China movies they clearly aspire to emulating. Ann Hui is credited as Production Designer here, a rare role for the critically adored director. The cinematography from Jingle Ma is top notch, framing the luscious sets and costumes and the action very well. The soundtrack from James Wong (with regular partner Romeo Diaz) seems a little too close to his score for OUATIC in places, but mostly does a commendable job.

Jet Li has said that Fong Sai Yuk is the character that most closely resembles his real personality from all those he's played. From the small time I've spent in Jet's company I'm not sure his self-image is entirely accurate, but he's probably in a better position to judge than me Certainly Fong Sai Yuk is a very likeable chap the way Jet plays him, and you can tell Jet was 100% into the character and the project. Despite this, the show is unequivocally stolen by Josephine Siao Fong-Fong as Fong Sai Yuk's kung fu fighting mother. She plays her character to perfection, showing a fantastic knack for comedy which I'm not sure she ever got to display in her roles when she was "in her prime" and also kicking ass in . Sibelle Hu also steals a fair amount of screen as the mother of Fong Sai Yuk's love interest (the beautiful Michelle Reis), and wife of semi-villain Tiger Lui (Chan Chung-Yung?), who also shines with an affably overstated performance. Of all the cast, Fong Sai Yuk's father (Paul Chu Kong?) is probably the only one whose performance is rather weak and forgettable. Main villain Chiu Man Cheuk is conspicuously far more charismatic and convincing than in any other movie he's been in apart from The Blade.

Fong Sai Yuk could be described as a light-hearted riff on the wire-fu wave launched by Once Upon A Time In China. Certainly humour is brought to the front here whilst the politics is pushed quite far to the back. Hong Kong humour can be an acquired taste, and the jokes sometimes fall flat in Fong Sai Yuk. Jeff Lau's jokes are generally a bit hit or miss, but he aims so wide that it's not surprising. There are some genuinely funny moments though.

When it comes down to it, the action scenes are what really got me hooked when I saw the movies though. Since Tsui Hark raised the bar several notches above anything people had imagined possible for fight scenes when he made Once Upon A Time In China, the Hong Kong choreographers had been engaged in a battle to see who could produce the most inventive and outlandish action scenes. The best of the bunch tended to be in Jet Li's movies, and the fights in Fong Sai Yuk are fine examples of HK creativity. Purists will no doubt cry that the fight scenes rely too heavily on wires, editing and stunt doubles, but I'm sure that Bruce Lee's statement about missing all that heavenly glory applies here. Grandly conceived if not flawlessly executed, the fights in Fong Sai Yuk were especially impressive to these innocent eyes that had never seen action Hong Kong style before. "How the? What the? Did they just?" etc etc. I wish they'd spent just a little bit more time tightening up the camera angles and hiding the obvious doubles better, but I can't fault them for ambition. I think the movie won the "best action" award that year, which is pretty impressive for a HK movie made in 1993, the year the new wave style reached its peak.

Fong Sai Yuk is definitely a movie that has a special place in many fans hearts, even though it does have too many mis-fired jokes and rough edges to be called a true masterpiece. Still a must see for any fan of Hong Kong cinema though, a wonderfully representative example of what makes it so special and unique.

Sadly, the DVD owner that wishes to watch Fong Sai Yuk is faced with only 3 choices, none of which are particularly appealing. They are:

1. Original Universe HK DVD with Mono sound. One of the earlier HK DVDs, basically a laser disc badly transfered to the smaller radius medium. Burnt in subs, washed out picture from a dirty print and badly framed such that the picture drifts up and down throughout, sometimes cutting subtitles in half.

2. Universe "Remaster" HK DVD with 5.1 sound. New picture transfer that now looks more like VHS than laser disc thanks to excessive edge enhancement, but at last removable subtitles that are clear and easy to read. Unfortunately the disc is totally ruined by the worst 5.1 remix *ever*. Sounds like it was mixed in a bathroom by a monkey with a rat in his head. Crap new sound effects totally mis-timed and with completely random levels, dialogue mixed to fit listeners on a heavy acid trip and... well, it's horrible actually. I tried it for 15 minutes then switched back to the original disc.

3. "The Legend" - absurdly retitled and otherwise Disney-fied release that doubtless looks miles better than either HK disc, but is rendered totally worthless by the inexcusable failure to include the original Cantonese language audio and English subtitles. If this is all you've seen, you've not seen the movie at all. It's probably cut by 30 minutes and re-scored with rap music, knowing Disney's utter contempt for their catalogue and audience.

I think the best versions of the movies I have are still the long play VHS copies recorded from Channel 4 in the UK before I discovered DVD, to be quite honest. A ridiculous state of affairs for such a classic movie!

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: shuqifan
Date: 01/28/2003
Summary: An Exciting Action Packed Adventure

I watch this film with a few family members, and we all enjoyed it. It can be described best as an action drama with some humourous elements mainly at the beginning.

Jet Li has some wonderful fighting sequences in this movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I was surprised that it was filmed in 1993 since it does appear to resemble an older film.


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Sahid Yaqub
Date: 07/26/2002
Summary: KICK ASS STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I remember when I saw this for the first time when it was shown on telivision a few years back (thank god it was the HK version). This movie had made me a great fan of Jet Li and lead me on to watch his other fine achievements.

The story is of real life Legend Fong Sai Yuk in his youthful years. He meets a rich mans daughter- Ting Ting at a sports exhibition and falls in love with her.

Sai Yuk's father is a member of the Red Flower society- a triad of rebels against the evil Ching Dynasty. The Imperial Emperor Chien Lung has sent for the governor of Kao Mun to find a list of all the Red Flower Society (since he has got news it is in Canton). Fong Sai Yuk becomes involved and cannot resist from fighting against the evil Governor and protects his family, the whole of the Red Flower Society and his beloved country.

This film is probably one of Jet Li's most finest movies made in his career (alongside the Once Upon a Time In China movies and Fist of Legend), the fight scenes are excellent, Jet Li plays the cheeky young hero very well and the comedy is really great- esepecially the character of Sai Yuk's mother is just a sharp, witty and hillarious piece of work. Overall I'd say that it is an excellent example of what top HK talent can do when they try. If you ain't seen it- RENT IT NOOOOOOOWW!!!!!!!!!!


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 06/25/2002
Summary: Not bad

Well, a peice of HK cinematic history? No, I wouldn't go that far at all, as tens of films come to mind before this. I'm surprised how some of the reviewers speak so highly of this, as it's actually a very messy film. I'm not
trying to put this down, because I can see why so many people would like it, but for a film like this to work, you need more than just good fight scenes.

I agree, the story is pretty good for a fantasy swordsplay film like this, as is the general look of things including
costume, background and even music. However, like I said, there are a lot of filming errors and quite honestly some which make the film look like it was shot during the 70's. I do however think that although some of the comedy was good and well placed, most of it is
rediculous and stupid - I know Jet's character is supposed to be a mischiefous boy, but even that doesn't give reason for some of the antics.

Still, for a Jet Li film it's pretty good, not touching anywhere near perhaps to something like OUATIC, but a good attempt all the same. As to be expected though, he still couldn't act (but can he even do so now??), and is completly outshined by Vincent Zhao and Josephine Siao, both of which are pretty good in this.

Overall, one for swordsplay fans only I would say, and with a bigger budget and better production team, this could have been a lot better. I think the sequel to this is to a certain extent a lot better, but if you want to see that, then it would be better to see this one first anyway as it's sort of a continuation of the story.


Reviewed by: resdog781
Date: 07/24/2001
Summary: Return to a great movie

After watching (and forgetting about) all of the HK movies I've seen over the years, the call of Ebay has returned my love of HK movies back to me...and what a way to return to it.

After seeing the same old Wong Fei Hung / Hung Hei Kwoon / stoic no-fun Jet Li movies, it was such a breath of fresh air to see Jet Li acting as a bratty mischievous kid :)

There's some great action scenes in this one (albeit with Corey Yuen's trademark crappy camera work, especially in the beginning) and some really cute cheesy HK romantic comedy between Jet Li and hottie Michelle Reis.

Josephine Siao was great in this (as she was in FSYII) as Sai Yuk's kung fu master mom, who (along with Jet Li in exact previous fight scene) has an amazing fight sequence with Sibelle Hu, and ends up making her....fall in love with her. In the words of Sai Yuk, "Wow that's great mom! ...Lesbians?" :) Just a little sample of how cheesy the humor is in this movie, but it's all good. It's a light-hearted movie.

And whoever was the dude that played Sai Yuk's dad was hysterically boring, but I guess that's what he meant to do. I hope.

The action definitely wasn't as good as the second one, but still a great funny action packed movie to sit back and watch.

...lesbians? :)

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 07/24/2001
Summary: 10/10 for sure!

One of Jet Li's highest (theatrical) grossing movies is also one of his very best. While FSY II still remains my favorite movie of all time (and the first Jet movie I saw), it is too sentimental (which is helped by the haunting music), and tears can't seem to stop falling during viewing. The first time I saw FSY II, it was so melodramatic that I couldn't stop thinking about it for about a year. It was so hauntingly well-rounded.

Upon examination of the 2 movies, I find this prequel to be much, much funnier than the sequel. Again, I feel the sequel delivers mostly sentimentality, though it does have a little bit of humor. On the other hand, I find the sequel to have much higher quality of fight scenes, especially when Jet Li goes up again the usual bold villain, who appeared in most of his movies. The sequel also contains more engaging music, which is perfect for its emotional theme. But the overall score may be deserved by the prequel. When you think about the plot, storyline, and pace, the prequel is simply top-notch in all fields, while the sequel has some extremity & sudden changes. All in all, the 2 parts of the movie serie are both magnificent and among the best examples of HK cinema.


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: kellychanfan
Date: 05/24/2001
Summary: Clearly the best

OK, FSY 2 has a few amazingly funny lines, but number 1 delivers the comedy faster than most movies can.

I'm not sure how someone from outside HK would look at this movie. Even mainland mandarin speaking chinese probably wont get the humour, and what they do understand will probably be seen as offensive (Tiger Liu is SO funny in this movie).

The point is it's local humour, and is some of the funniest local humour I've seen (I can laugh outloud just thinking of Jet Li's name that he gave to the police, but I wont write it here cuz it may spoil the joke).

One thing I don't get, one reviewer didn't like the relationship between Jet & his mother, thinking it was too close... I think that this is the best part of the movie. it's not too close, she's the typical overprotective mother (i've got one very similar!). The close relationships are between her character - Fong Dai Yuk - (haha, DAI yuk!) & Lei Siu Wan, and the subtle relationship between Jets mom & dad.

I bet they had trouble making this movie through laughing too much, sometimes you can see the actors trying not to laugh!

Overall, HK comedy at its very very very best! Must see!

Reviewed by: RLM
Date: 05/08/2001
Summary: This Film Is A Blast

From the opening ultra-graphic fight scene (look for the bone through the arm) to Fong Sai Yuk's (Jet Li) hair standing straight out while running fast, you know this is a movie of extremes. The fighting is first class and the character development is better than the typical HK fare. The women in our group loved the film too. They were cheering loudest when Fong Sai Yuk tried to save his dad at the end of the film. The fight at the end of the film is beath-pounding. 10/10

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/05/2001
Summary: Pretty good

It's pretty weird to see that the main villian in this is actually the person who will take ove the role of Wong Fei Hung in the ONCE upon a time series!!

A pretty standard Jet li movie, meaning its good!! Plenty of action and comedy and look out for Michelle Reis, she is EXCELLENT!!


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: nomoretitanic
Date: 04/12/2001
Summary: The Best Type of Hoaky Movie

This is a campy movie at its best, it has visible wires and obvious dummies in places of real people, yet I still love this movie to death. This movie has an abundantful of charm and chemistry, every character, hero or villain, seems to perfect compliments of each other on screen, with the exception of Jet and the very remarkable Xiao Fong Fong, who have way too much chemistry with each other as mother and son--more than Jet and his love interest or Ms. Xiao and her husband. But they pull it off, they're funny. The acting is uniformly great, I could feel the dimensions in the characters, they seem to be a campy exaggeration of real-life people, as opposed to other comicbook-wannabe movies with real-life people tryin their darndest to bring cardboard characters to life (read: Once Upon a Time in China II.)

Speaking of Once Upon a Time in China II, this movie is basically the movie OUATIC2 tries to be. Aside from the blatant message of "CHINESE PEOPLE SHOULD FREAKING STICK TOGETHER" flashing in front of our eyes for about 30 times in OUATIC2, Fong Sai Yuk has a lot of sequences that reminds me of the Wong FeiHung sequel, and most of the time it out-does the Hark Tsui extravaganza.

For example, there's a scene in OUATIC2 where Jet dukes it out with the White Lotus Clan leader and they were tryin to fight without hitting the ground, does they fight on top of tables, men, raftors...etc. Well, what do you know, there's a fight between Jet and Sibelle Hu here with the same concept, except it's much more exuberant because it does not try to be artsy fartsy or anything other than what it actually is: a great kungfu scene.

Or the final fight with between Jet and Donnie Yen in OUATIC2 where Jet uses a big stick against Donnie's little one-- hey guess what? Chiu Man-Chek uses a big stick against Jet here in FSY as well, except they go a little further and actually finished the fight.

There are plenty other ones too, all of them are screaming this: "We are here to finish what Hark Tsui teased you guys with": The cloth-stick battle in OUATIC2 that was cut short by Master Wong's Amazing Wit (hey if my kungfu can't kill you, this splinter will!) was finished by Jet Li beating guards up with a rope here in FSY. Couple of witty wiseass comments Wong didn't crack on Donnie Yen's geekiness was redeemed by Fong SaiYuk's jokes on Vincent Chiu. The stupid dining etiquette scene at the opening in OUATIC2 was much funnier here in Fong Sai Yuk.

A lot of people will insist the two movies are of different sub-genres of kungfu movie, and props to you Einstein, but all I can say is this, I had an amazing time with this one and a so-so time with Hark Tsui's hideous abortion they call Once Upon a Time in China II.
(By the way if you scroll down this page you'll find a review by HKCinema's Dale Whitehouse but that's the wrong movie he's reviewed. He's seen the much inferior Kungfu Cult Master instead. Dale, if you're still with us, WATCH THIS MOVIE!!!!)

Reviewed by: David Harris
Date: 06/09/2000

Review courtesy of Jet Li UK - The Official Jet Li UK Fan Club (www.jet-fans.co.uk)

Directed by frequent collaborator Yuen Kwai (both "Fong Sai Yuk" films and "Bodyguard From Beijing") this has some marvellous action and comedy moments like "Last Hero In China" but is in a different style entirely.

It is very much less frantic but is equally entertaining. There is a greater degree of drama and the action definitely has a welcome harder edge.

I hesitate to use the words "more sophisticated" because they aren't strictly accurate but it certainly is a different proposition to "Last Hero.....". Worth noting is the fact that one of Jet's co-stars is Chiu Man Chuk who is now one of Hong Kong's top martial arts stars (a point of interest is that he took over the Wong Fei Hung role from Jet in "Once Upon A Time In China" parts 4 & 5 and also made a subsequent Wong Fei Hung TV series).

Both this film and sequel have been screened twice on the Channel 4 TV station here in the UK but sadly a video release for both seems less than imminent. The asking price may well have risen since Jet's worldwide success in "Lethal Weapon 4" !

It is interesting to note that this is this role that Jet considers the closest to his own personality. It also somewhat unusual in the realm of kung fu films in that it incorporates a "lesbian" storyline (those of you who have seen the film will know what I mean).

Jet's Fong Sai Yuk is a mischievous character seemingly always getting into trouble (similar to Jackie Chan's Wong Fei Hung from the "Drunken Master" films which was so different to Jet's interpretation in the "Once Upon..." films).Other notable performances include Siao Fung Fung ("Mahjong Dragon") who makes a perfect foil to Jet's cheeky youngster as his equally cheeky mother !

The script isn't perhaps as well structured as it needed to be but it isn't the end of the world as the performances and action take up the slack. The aforementioned Chui Man Chuk (who plays the requisite bad guy) has a couple of great fight scenes with Jet both of which are visually inventive as well as being hugely entertaining.

One of the standout scenes is a fight for the hand of Tiger Lee's daughter in marriage between Fong Sai Yuk and her mother which takes place on the heads of the crowd who have gathered to watch. Yuen Kwai's direction is effective and avoids being overly gimmicky which is of significant benefit to the film as the finished product is visually speaking "busy" anyway.

One of the standout visuals of the film is Jet using a bow and arrow to halt the oncoming soldiers. The difference being is that this one fires ten arrows at once and cuts them down in double quick time (this weapon is featured on the VCD / DVD covers for the film).

Worth watching ? You bet it is - it's worth getting too !

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

One of my top 3 favorite HK movies, this one has a bit of everything: comedy, drama, wonderful characters, incredible action and fight sequences, a good script - even high tragedy and a super-mom! Undoubtedly one of the best Jet Li films, and one of the best period piece / costume dramas. This one satisfies on many different levels, and is highly recommended... (Sibelle Hu is wonderful, as Jet Li's mother-in-law to be, but Josephine Siao steals the show as Jet Li's feisty martial arts master mom! The fight atop a crowd is an instant classic scene.)

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Fong, like Wong Fey-Hong and his friends, was a Chinese folk hero.They were all members of the Red Flower Society, an underground organization that tried to return the rule of China to the Chinese from the Ching Dynasty Manchurians. This is an alternately light-hearted and suspenseful story of Fong's youth, his family life and his heroic deeds that led to his being accepted by the Red Flower Society.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Unquestionably among the best HK "martial arts" films made in the 1990s. Here, characters' circumstances and motives are just as important as the action (which is certainly well handled), resulting in an unusually satisfying action film. While hardly a serious treatment, it's entertaining enough, and compares favourably to the empty, formulaic films that followed.

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Things are heating up in Canton. Kung fu expert and master of The Invincible Magic Fist, Fong Sai Yuk (Jet Li) has won the hand of comely Ting Ting (Michelle Reis) in a martial arts competition -- much to their mutual delight. But she's the daughter of the newly installed Manchu governor, and Fong Sai Yuk's dad just happens to be a prominent member of the Red Flower Society, which secretly loyal to the Han Emperor. In the meantime, Fong Sai Yuk's fierce kung fu mom (Josephine Siao) has managed to get the governor's wife (Sibelle Hu) to fall in love with her at the same time her dad gets captured, leaving Fong Sai Yuk to fix things up. Yes, I'm confused, too. Nifty set pieces include a fight with Sibelle Hu as they jump on the bobbing heads of a crowd, and the opening surfboard sequence.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7