The Three Famous Constables (1983)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-05-05
In many action movies the narrative is much less important than the fights—it mainly serves to both connect and separate the actions scenes. But it can become so spare that it is meaningless which is the case in “Three Famous Constables”. To the extent there is a plot it involves getting rid of the Devil Clan, a gang of very efficient robbers who have never been caught. The depredations must have gotten more blatant because two constables, played by Pearl Cheung Ling and Tin Hok are both tasked with eliminating them. Pearl Cheung recruits Lam Gwong-Wing who is either the third constable of the title or an informant. Lam is a bit of a goof—he would rather lounge in luxury with beautiful young women peeling grapes for him than go after the Devil Clan—which seems to make a lot of sense—but he reluctantly goes along with her after she threatens him. Lam is literally grabbed away from her by the constable played by Tin Hok for his war for his parallel operation. There is a third figure, neither a constable nor a Devil Clanner. He is Wolf Warrior who simply shows up and kills people—lots of people.

The movie begins with a bang—or rather with the sound of sharp steel sliding through midsections. Wolf Warrior, played by Tin Peng is walking through a darkened town when he is set upon by several swordsmen leaping from ambush. He barely acknowledges them other than to run each of them through with his sword and continue on, not pausing even to wipe the blood of one thug from his blade before plunging it into the next.

This is just after the odd opening credits. They run for a long time—over three and one half minutes and are superimposed over an edited montage of action scenes from the movie, in many cases showing who is killed by whom, which removes any edge of anticipation when these scenes occur later.

There are plenty of obstacles between the constables and the Devil Clan. One is a killer for hire who makes coffins for his victims before he kills them but who feels inadequate because he can’t live up to the deadly example set by both his father and grandfather.

Even tougher are the Five Relentless Fighters including one who plucks a deadly harp that allows the other four to fly while attacking a foe. Spectacular though they are, the Fighters are no match for Wolf Warrior. Nor are the ninjas that pop out of the ground—he basically shrugs his way through the black clad killers, each of them getting one fatal sword thrust and nothing more.

On one hand the story is incoherent, the characters don’t develop and there is no theme or even credible motivation for anything anyone does. But the action scenes are well done and Lam Gwong-Wing is a good physical comedian who makes the screen come alive. Most importantly, at least for me is Pearl Cheung, who is deadly with a sword and extremely attractive. Her face could easily have launched a thousand ships. More screen time for her and less for Wolf Warrior would have made it a better movie.

“Three Famous Constables” looks like it was shot very quickly and slapped together in the editing room. With that in mind it is not a bad movie.

Recommended for Wuxia/Swordplay fans and those who admire Pearl Cheung, one of which I now am.
Reviewer Score: 6