Dirty Ho (1979)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2006-06-27
Summary: The pinnacle of martial arts comedies...
Dirty Ho starts off with a bidding war for brothel girls between (unbeknownst to everyone) the 11th Prince Wang Chin Chen (Gordon Liu) and a local rascal Ho Ching (Wong Yu). After a series of alternating displays of wealth and riches, the girls decide to stick with Wang Chin, leading Ho Ching to make a life-changing decision and challenge him. The initial fracas to brought to an end by the arrival of government troops, but later that night Ho Ching comes back to steal Wang's money and jewelry from the girls. Wang happens to still be there, and when Ho threatens Tsui Hung (Kara Hui), Wang skillfully manipulates her in order to soundly beat Ho and leave him with a poisoned, festering wound on his forehead. Continuing to hound Wang, Ho eventually figures out that he needs the antidote to the poison and the only way he'll get it is to accept Wang's offer to take Ho as his student. Through a series of encounters, we find out that Wang's life is in danger from a mysterious adversary who has been hiring assassins to kill him. After Wang is wounded and his royal identity revealed, he must teach Ho advanced martial arts in order to root out the culprit.

In my opinion, Dirty Ho is the pinnacle of the Shaw Brothers martial arts comedy genre. Gordon Liu and Wong Yu have a great chemistry and their scenes of bickering and spats are very funny. In addition to an excellent comedic element, the martial arts are some of the most exciting and intricate ever captured on screen. In the opening brothel scene, Gordon Liu's character has to hide his martial arts ability from the others, so his confrontation with Wong Yu is a series of "accidents" that eventually disable Wong completely and leave Liu unscathed. Liu is incredibly graceful and his kung fu skills are masterfully hidden behind his seemingly clumsy mishaps. Later, his fights with Johnny Wang and then Wilson Tong are almost like ballets in their flow. Each move is undertaken to resemble a normal action and not bring attention or cause alarm to people around them. However, every gesture and motion has a deadly intention behind it. The choreography is truly inspired in these battles, and it isn't until Wilson Tong's character realizes that he can't win that he throws caution to the wind and does anything he can to defeat Liu. The final fight between Wong, Liu, Lo Lieh and his two henchmen is also fantastic. Multiple weapons, styles and all forms of trickery are used to try and bring about victory and the result is one of the best fights you'll see.

If I were to bring up any drawback, it is the fact that the motivation of the hidden antagonist is never truly revealed (although hinted at), and the absence of that plot point is made even more glaring by the abrupt (and unfortunately common in Shaw productions) end to the movie. Just when you think you are going to have it all explained, the classic freeze-frame ending reveals itself. I'd be surprised if anyone told me they weren't confused and somewhat disappointed in the ending after such an outstanding hour and a half of film.
Reviewer Score: 9