Fighting Ace (1979)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-06-24
“Fighting Ace” is unlike most master/student relationships in Hong Kong movies in that the student Chee Kao is in charge as he goes from master to master, learning what he can from each. He even goes so far--in 1970s martial arts movies terms a riot of kung fu promiscuity—as to have two teachers at the same time. But he learns his lesson, that the student must be a student in every way, when he is fooled into becoming the disciple of an evil master.

Almost all the action--and there is a lot of it--in the first hour of the movie involves forms, sparring, practice and learning new techniques with little actual fighting. The last 30 minutes is almost all fights

There is a very goofy "ceremony" in which Chee Kao becomes a disciple and student of Master Yen. It looks as if it was made up on the spot and had elements of Buddhist liturgy, at least as interpreted in countless Hong Kong movies, combined with the investiture of a Knight of the Garter although with a short dowel rod replacing the sword. Apparently at that time and place when one became a follower of a master he knelt before the master, holding the dowel rod on both outstretched palms. The master then took the rod and tapped his new student on the head. Kwan Yung-Moon must have had an idea of how silly it would look on screen—he was unable to keep a huge smile off his face while taking part in what should have been a formal rite of passage.

The action highlight is some terrific close order sparring between Kwan Yung Moon and John Liu Chung-Liang. The kicks and punches aren't really pulled but are slipped by the intended target, leading to very fast, fluid and athletic action. Extraordinarily well choreographed and executed.

John Liu is a phenomenal kicker which is highlighted throughout the movie including a kick to the back of the head of an opponent while standing in front of him—or so it seemed from the camera angle and by then I had seen so many jaw-dropping kicks that it looked not only possible but easy. In another scene he leaps over one adversary to land a kick on another, then pivots and kicks the first guy.

Wang Tai-Lang, as Ah San, begins as a bullied servant, responsible for keeping the son and heir, his “young master” out of trouble. His main task is to keep the slovenly lout awake which turns out to be impossible. He is beaten with a whip by the housekeeper, a reprehensible bully and tries to propitiate him by acting as obsequious as possible. After Master Yen arrives and takes on Chee as a student Ah San slowly becomes less smarmy and contingent and much more an independent person. He learns kung fu by following Chee’s movements and develops his own acrobatic style of fighting which uses the enemy's momentum and aggression against him.

One convention of Hong Kong martial arts films that is honored is the complete confidence of the kung fu master. When the Main Villain confronts Chee Kao he knows that Chee has just killed his two armed bodyguards with almost no damage to himself but the villain doesn't hesitate or quail for a moment, secure in the (mistaken) knowledge that his kung fu is superior to that of anyone else.

Recommended for the action sequences
Reviewer Score: 6