Shaolin and Wu Tang (1983)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2010-11-29
OK, so the sister of the Manchu prince, the one who wants to rule the province by controlling all kung fu, is secretly placed in a prison for criminally insane women. When the young leader of Wu Tang is thrown into that prison after being framed for killing the Wu Tang master she teaches him the secrets of Shaolin kung fu which she learns during very brief encounters with the young leader of Shaolin when he arrives with meals for the inmates. The Shaolin and Wu Tang schools are bitter rivals but the young leaders have been friends since childhood and while each of them reveres his school's traditions neither wants to injure the other. The scenes with the sister of the Manchu prince learning the Shaolin moves at a barred portcullis defy description--at least my ability to describe--but are among the strangest ways of learning kung fu shown in Hong Kong movies--and that covers a lot of strangeness.

I bring this up because this episode could have been depicted in fifty pages by John Le Carre who would have made it not only make sense but seem inevitable. In "Shaolin and Wu Tang" it is stunningly incomprehensible. However kung fu movies aren't plot driven--the plot is often just there to fill the time between training sequences and fights. This was never more the case than in "Shaolin and Wu Tang."

The action scenes, both general melees involving platoons of fighters doing battle and also individual combat between the principals, are extraordinary. Gordon Liu and Johnny Wang Lung-Wei fought each other in 18 films over the years--this was their fourteenth collaboration--and were a great combination. There are a lot of training scenes, particularly when Chun Kit convinces the abbot to allow him to join Shaolin monastery. While the non-aggressive use of kung fu is insisted upon as part of Chun becoming a novice it is quickly forgotten when a challenge is sent to Shaolin for its best fighter to face the best Wu Tang fighter to determine which school is better.

This is part of an evil plan by the evil prince to eliminate the best martial artists while learning their secrets so that he would be the arbiter of all combat arts in the area he ruled. He is also trying to get the book showing the seven secret sword movements of Wu Tang. There is always a book, of course, something so arcane that only one copy exists and no one knows who has it. If Wikileaks were around then...

"Shaolin and Wu Tang" didn't demand much acting from the cast. Wang Lung-Wei was his usual totally evil self, a bad guy who, in the tradition of kung fu movie villains, has the finest martial arts skills. This creates a huge hole in the plot, ignored by everyone. If the prince is already the best why does he have to pick up the Shaolin and Wu Tang arts? The answer if that it is what evil princes do, along with betraying their honor and their family plus laughing maliciously when he hurts someone.

This is a good movie for fans of all action all the time or of any of its principals.
Reviewer Score: 6