The Victim (1980)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-01-08
Summary: Sammo Hung at his best
“The Victim” doesn’t have much of a plot. Lau Tin-Chi, the credited screenwriter, had a pretty easy time of it since he just had to supply enough dialog, character development and plot twists to lead from one outstanding action scene to the next. There are elements of self-sacrifice and gallantry on one side paired with dirty dealing and skullduggery on the other but they are hardly the reason to see this movie which all fans of action films should.

Twenty-five years ago Sammo Hung was already a genius. The fight choreography here is sublime and while Sammo’s contributions as a fighter are exceptional, it is as the stager of the fights that he really astonishes—he does everything at top speed and just about perfectly.

We watched the U.S. Martial Arts Theater disc which was as bad as Mr. Booth warned—the fights were fierce and brutal but must have been more so on a decent print that hadn’t been cropped, scanned and panned, dubbed and saddled with cheesy sound effects. But watching this poor quality reproduction brought back memories of Saturdays spent watching Kung Fu Theater—all this print was missing were a few commercials for local car dealers to complete the illusion. We would then run out into the street to show each other our latest moves, often flying kicks that missed and landed the kicker on the ground. While it is possible to enjoy an atrociously handled print to some extent—the quality of “The Victim” is invincible--it is like listening to a poor quality tape of a favorite singer. You love what is there but you know you are missing a lot as well.

One thing that is obvious from watching any print of “The Victim” is how tough and daring Hong Kong stuntmen were—and, one assumes, still are. They hit the ground hard and often. Rewinding and playing back at different speeds made things look even worse. Stuntmen are fit and skilled; they have rehearsed being flipped through the air and falling on their backs and they are capable of doing it as many times as the director needs to get the shot he wants. But even though they “know how to fall”—that is know how to get their hands down first, for example—it is still a very rough way to make a living and was probably a lot worse twenty-five years ago.

This is a terrific movie, filled with the kind of action that made Hong Kong cinema popular throughout the world in decades past. If you haven’t seen it, rent it now.
Reviewer Score: 9