The Ring of Death (1980)
Reviewed by: kiliansabre on 2007-11-14
Summary: Above average and well acted
This fantastic martial arts period piece takes place at the end of the Ching Dynasty. The Russians and the Japanese are at war over northern China, with Japan trying to prevent the Russians from coming to a truce with the Russians. In the meantime, Nui (Cliff Lok in a role he was meant for) is a country bumpkin with strength in excess, but a childlike ignorance of the world. After leaving his aunt who raised him to go seek his father in the next town he is told that his father is a servant of a celebrated general. The generals three sons and their martial arts teacher as well as one of the generals men (played by Dean Shek in his usual goofy and foolish style) make Nui the target of humiliation, beating him up repeatedly. Eventually Nui's kindheartedness lends him in the good graces of a skilled and bickering kung fu couple. They each teach him they their styles (Dragon and Mo Chiu) and he returns to town to make a fool out of those who scorned him earlier. Eventually in a politically charged martil arts fight against Hwang Jang-Lee, Nui will get a chance to prove himself once and for all.

Cliff Lok was very enjoyable in this role. He comes off as innocent and sincere in a world where most of the people around him see that as a sign of weakness. His constant struggle to find a place where he belongs is shown through the genuine developement of his character. This role could have come off as trite in the wrong hands, but Cliff Lok pulls it off convincingly.

The martial arts are the real stand out here. The initial fights are mostly played for laughs, but progress into solid and exciting matches. Cliff Lok's staff and spear fight with Chiang Kam and the general's other sons are fantastic and fast, full of grace and acrobatics. Hwang Jang-Lee pulls off some great foot and fist work near the end and watching these two skilled martial artistist go head to head is a treat, especially since their characters are almost exact polar opposites of each other. Also notable is Linda Lin Ying (previously of Drunken Master and Dance of the Drunken Mantis fame) in her last known role who is very impressive in her display of the Mo Chui style when she isn't being doubled. Notable Hong Kong film veteran Sek Kin is equally impressive as the husband of Linda Lin Ying's character.

This one is worth seeking out, it's not quite a classic, but it's certainly a very solid entry. Probably director Ng See-Yuen's best film. Recommended.
Reviewer Score: 8