Of Cooks and Kung Fu (1979)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2006-04-11
Summary: Funky styles and Jacky Chen saves the film...
Of Cooks and Kung Fu is an above average late 70's fight fest very similar, as mentioned before, to the Jackie Chan classic "Drunken Master," which was released a year before. Jacky Chen Shao-Lung plays Tan Tan, a somewhat lazy young man (and terrible cook) who is being taught the cooking kung fu style by his Uncle, once the head chef for the empress. Unexpectedly, the best cooks throughout the country are suddenly being murdered and it appears that Tan Tan has to learn every secret of the style in order to protect himself and his uncle.
Other than a few saving graces, this movie could have fallen by the wayside in the heap of generic and discarded kung fu flicks. The first positive is the villain, played by Chen Shan. His face is covered for 90% of the movie with a massive conical straw hat and it lends to his mysteriousness and intrigue. He is also and excellent fighter, and his final showdown with Jacky Chen is a lot of fun. The training sequences are also inventive and well done, with styles like Beggar's Chicken, Flying Shark's Fin and Steaming Beef Balls to throw a curve at adversaries. The great opening scene has Jacky Chen displaying each of the styles, all while cooking in large woks laid out in his back courtyard. In the end, Chen turns out to be the real highlight of this film. He is very acrobatic and fast, pulling off moves that took a ton of practice and choreography and are enhanced by his natural ability. Due to the success of Drunken Master, he is somewhat regulated to being a Jackie Chan clone (hence the name?) with the requisite goofiness and whining due to training hardships, but he manages to pull it off and stand on his own by the end. Chen has a relatively short career for the amount of potential he shows in this movie, and it made me wonder if being typecast as a parallel to Chan limited his future. If that's the case it's a shame, as he could have been quite an interesting and exciting lead actor.
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In the US Dubbed version, listen for the use of an interesting synthesizer version of the Beatles "Blackbird" and then the inclusion of the original Jaws theme. Licensing rights?
Reviewer Score: 7