The Buddhist Fist (1980)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-07-18
Summary: Removed his veins? How ghastly!
Generally well done fights alternate with generally dumb comedy bits throughout most of “The Buddhist Fist” but the laughs end at about the one hour mark. There is one very exciting battle between Ah Hsiang (Yuen Shun-Yi) and Mr. Chen (Lee Hoi-Sang). Ah Hsiang had a staff—actually a series of staves—while Chen was armed with that odd weapon that only shows up in Hong Kong movies. It looks like a huge Bowie knife with its handle and hilt removed with the blade placed on the end of a long pole. This fight was choreographed perfectly with Ah always able to grab the next bamboo pole when Chen chops through the one he is holding.

The one extremely grotesque scene was between Ah and his godfather. The godfather had been kidnapped and tortured—not only had his tongue been cut out to keep him from revealing who the bad guy really was but, according to earlier dialog, all the veins had been removed from his arms and legs—now that is a really creative infliction of pain.

Some of the comic figures, including the sleeping monk guarding the jade Buddha and the frustrated chess player—who appeared smiling in a tree, much like the Cheshire Cat—decently written. They were played very broadly and with lots of gusto. Some of them may be as familiar to Chinese audiences as were the stock characters in commedia dell’ arte in Italy or the fools and clowns in Shakespeare’s England. The artistry was in using extremely familiar comedians in ways that might not occur to the audience but still keeping them in character so that they fulfilled their roles as devices in the drama. The guard who said he was too sleepy and lazy to fight before beating a much younger and fitter opponent was one of these characters. The cheating chess player looked overweight and out of shape but dispatched a trained killer, the fortune teller, who had gotten the best of Ah Hsaing.

“The Buddhist Fist” doesn’t have much of a plot—there is only one character who could be the ultimate bad guy and it is clear who it is before the movie is half over. In case anyone missed the obvious, he has several close-ups looking concerned or guilty when the various crimes (kidnapping, rape, murder) are discussed.

The DVD we watched was cropped and dubbed but an anamorphic print with pristine subtitles wouldn’t have made the movie itself any better.