Five Tough Guys (1974)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2007-09-09
Summary: Change is never easy..,
Five Tough Guys takes place around the time of the Cultural Revolution. Hung (Ku Feng) is an ambitious military chief who is determined to kill a leading general (Ling Yun as Generel Tsai Song-Po) and advance up the ladder of power. Chen Kuan-Tai and Wai Wang are local political figures that are loyal to General Tsai and decide they have to transport the General to his home province for his own protection. They hire two martial artists for their journey, one of whose family was a legendary protection force in the past for powerful government officials on the move. Along the way, they are joined by another loyal martial artist (Wong Chung) whose knowledge of local leaders help them on their journey.

On the surface, Five Tough Guys is a pretty standard action movie with some decent martial arts action thrown into the mix. I was mostly interested in the way it portrayed China in its transition between customs and traditions of the past and the present. Much like Liu Chia-Liang's classic "Legendary Weapons of China," the characters struggle with the direction their country is heading and the abandonment of cultural uniqueness and their personal roles in the future. Wei Jin-Bao (Fan Mei-Sheng) perhaps represents this feeling the most. He is overwhelmingly frustrated due to the fact that his family's business of transport protection has fallen on hard times. His father is visibly depressed and his martial arts skills are of no use to anyone anymore. With the introduction of cars and guns, protection by fists and spears are no match. When Wu Wen-Yuan (Chen Kuan-Tai) proposes a kind of "old school" way of transporting the General to his home and asks Wei to help, Wei is incredibly proud to fly his family's banner again and jumps at the chance. When Chief Hung (Ku Feng) hires a group of local thugs led by Wong Ching to track the caravan, even Wong's character is angry at Hung's use of guns instead of fists and traditional weapons. There is a feeling of a sort of betrayal and divergence from an honorable fight between masters of their respective martial arts. This play between men sensing their loss of place in the future set against a time of significant change in China makes for an interesting view. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is a bit slow and disjointed. The editing in fight scenes is a little sloppy and detracts from what should be the best scenes of the movie. Overall, a decent film laid on the framework of what could have been a masterpiece.

Reviewer Score: 6