The Big Fight (1972)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-02-05
“The Big Fight” takes place during the Japanese occupation of China during which the invaders abuse the citizens, set up checkpoints to harass travelers and search for contraband and even carried out summary executions on the spot of those suspected of loyalty to China. They have no regard for those they have conquered and many Chinese give in, showing obeisance to their conquerors in order to keep from being beaten or killed. A group of patriots sets up a school for unarmed combat both to be able to fight back if given the chance and also to help the morale of their brethren.

Tin Peng is returning to the school when he encounters a Japanese army squad. The officer leading them strikes him when he refuses to bow. Using tried and true Hong Kong action movie conventions he kills every member of the heavily armed group, using their bayonet tipped rifles against them, throwing knives that he has hidden in his wheelbarrow and ducking behind on soldier when another fires so that the bullet meant for him kills a Japanese soldier. Obviously he is the man of action that the Chinese need. He is also a very reluctant hero, suggesting patience and watchfulness instead of armed rebellion, telling those around him that they should carry out two tasks: spy on the Japanese and organize the people.

Trouble has a way of finding such a man and the next scene is in a smoky dive where Cheung Ching-Ching is singing. A Japanese official arrives accompanied by three thugs. He wants to hear a Japanese song which she says she doesn't know while his thugs bully the men in the audience. Tin Peng is sitting in the back of the restaurant eating a bowl of noodles while this is going on so someone is in big trouble. Not surprisingly it is the loutish Japanese official who, after making a disgusting pass at the singer, tells everyone to get out of the eatery. Tin Peng refuses and the fighting starts. It ends quickly with the three thugs bleeding and the official scurrying away. This round to the Chinese but with Japanese soldiers and spies everywhere our hero will need to hide out.

He and the others—the singer and her two musicians now accompany Tin on journey during which, to no one’s surprise, he discovers they are a secret patriotic cell—have to lie low to avoid not only the enemy army patrols but also the traitorous Chinese collaborators. The chief traducer is Brother Wu an effete and punctilious man with a pencil mustache, cigarette holder and ostentatious silver watch chain. His father is the local mayor, happy to serve under the occupiers and the townspeople are free, to an extent, to try and ignore the occupying army and attempt to live normal lives. Life is presented as one imagines Vichy France existed under the Nazis. The collaborators are actively evil while the Japanese commanders they serve are content to remain in the background. Brother Wu is an old friend of Tin—they are as close as brothers and shared the same martial arts teacher. Wu and two of his collaborationist thugs, after mildly taunting Tin, encounter the lovely Ching who has accompanied him. She is new to the area and hasn’t yet registered with the civil authorities. When Wu attempts to molest her she easily defeats him and has less trouble with his thugs. They draw knives, only to find that she has a cloak with a lining of razor sharp discs. She dodges their thrusts and reverses the cloak, spinning it around them and leaving them bleeding.

These tactical advantages can’t last, of course. Wu, the perfect Quisling, tells his father that "The people around here are skilled in the martial arts. If they join together they could make things difficult for us and the Japanese." Since this is exactly what Tin and his cohorts plan on doing a plot is hatched to stop them. Wu comes up with a plan—his initial plan was for more spies and more battalions of soldiers, a particularly uncreative way for a turncoat to betray his country—to pit the best fighters from Japan against local Chinese champions. The movie goes off the tracks here a bit—otherwise it has a well structured and cohesive story—because the Japanese beat all comers. The three Japanese fighters, an expert in karate and judo plus a sumo wrestler, kill or disable sixty of their Chinese foes, drawing opponents both from the city and from afar. This horrible showing is excused by a couple of scenes in which he counsels the need for patience and training before they take on the occupiers but finally he and his small cadre must answer the call and fight a large force of Japanese soldiers and Chinese traitors. The ending is never in doubt, only which of the good guys will remain alive for the final freeze frame.

Many of the fights are very well done. They look brutal and convincing with arms and legs crunching against each other and battlers slamming into the ground. Even the general melees look good—they are difficult to stage and film since they involve a lot of extras who have to look like credible martial artists while not getting hurt.

The good guys are completely righteous while the bad guys are totally immoral. The plot holds together quite well, the costumes and sets are standard issue for 1972 and even the dubbing is on this Mill Creek release is appropriate.
Reviewer Score: 6