The Tattoo Connection (1978)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2006-07-29
Summary: Oh, the lost potential of Jim Kelly!
When a ultra-valuable diamond is stolen by thieves in Hong Kong, the insurance company sends in Lucas (Jim Kelly) to get the gem back before they have to pay the claim. A local gang run by Boss Lok (Chan Sing) and his main enforcer (yet morally conflicted) Dong To (Dorian Tan) controls the merchandise, and they are determined to sell it off before Lucas can catch up to them. However, Lucas is a man of many talents and will not be thrown off the trail easily, especially where there are beautiful women and lots of money at stake.
The Tattoo Connection is by far the funkiest kung fu movie I've seen to date. It's also a classic Saturday morning kick-fest that will have a smile on your face for the whole time. Jim Kelly with his massive afro, tight track suit tops and devilish yet charming smile completely captures your attention and makes you wonder why he wasn't a bigger star. From other reviews I've seen I gather he was a bit much to handle on the set, constantly disagreeing with Bruce Liang on how the action scenes should be done. This being only his second major movie (behind Enter the Dragon), he was pinned as having a bad attitude and subsequently his Hong Kong movie career was flushed away. A true shame as he brings a lot of charisma and fighting skills to the screen. Dorian Tan holds his own as well, with absolutely unbelievable and legendary kicking skills that will have you wondering how anyone can be so flexible in tight blue jeans. There are, of course, the general pitfalls that you encounter in most low budget, 1970s kung fu films. Bad style, over-acting and cheesy dialogue trip up the film a few times, but never enough to ruin your enjoyment of it. Unfortunately, there is a hint of racism as well, as Lucas is constantly referred to as the "black man," and being caught by him would be a serious loss of face. In one scene, after a quick brawl that is broken up by the police, Dorian Tan yells "Black man, you are lucky this time." Jim Kelly yells back "Yellow man, you won't get away... the next time!" Yikes! I cringed a bit hearing that, hoping it wouldn't get worse. Luckily it doesn't, and there is a general positive ending between the two.
There is also a gratuitous amount of nudity in the film, with Lee Hoi Gei (playing a stripper) and Cheng Suk-Ying walking (and dancing) around nude for a majority of their screen time, along with a few other naked girls being fawned over by a classically "dirty old man" character played by Fong Yuen.
One final positive point that should be mentioned is the great opening theme song by Hong Kong pop-star (at the time) Anders Nelson. It's probably the catchiest theme song I've heard from a movie pre-1990.
Tattoo Connection is a very fun, cheesy (in a good way) and exciting 70's Hong Kong crime caper starring a man that could have been a huge star. Definitely recommended for a laugh-inducing hour and a half.
Reviewer Score: 8