The Young Rebel (1975)
Reviewed by: STSH on 2014-05-11
Summary: Sledgehammer melodrama
The billing for The Young Rebel tells you straight away just who will want to watch the movie. Starring David Chiang with guest star Ti Lung, then the main supports, then the minor actors. That is, TYR is a David Chiang vehicle where Ti Lung pops in and out at intervals.

David’s cheesy grin or worried brow is rarely off the screen for more than a minute, and the focus is firmly on him most of the time. As Xiang, he plays a troubled and very angry young man, whose destructive rages and burning hatreds lead him along the twin paths of moral decline and wordly riches. While TYR is primarily a crime melodrama, there is of course plenty of fu fighting, mainly in the second half.

Given that this is Shaw Brothers, there are good production values, the support cast is uniformly excellent (even though everyone wildly overacts), and the fu fights are choreographed well. There are a few letdowns, including one which is puzzling. In the first half, before David’s character learns fu, the fight scenes are amateurish and sloppy. Nearly all the punches are obviously pulled, and there are no attempts to hide this. But from the moment Ti Lung polishes off the thugs, the choreography switches to professional standard. Strange. Perhaps they were cranking out movies to a tight schedule.

There are plenty of first-rate fu fighters in TYR, though most are necessarily consigned to minor roles and extras. They can’t get in David’s way too much ! Lee Hoi Sang stands out as the Korean, showing off his impressive biceps and powerful moves. Dear old Simon Yuen doesn’t really fight, but his presence as Sifu is solid and authoritative.

The wild overacting must be down to Ti Lung as director. Not that actors in fu films are ever expected to show much restraint, but Ti clearly wanted no doubt about what any of the characters felt. The shock felt by Xiang’s mother as she progressively finds out about his life of crime is always accompanied by the camera zooming in on her face, and usually more than once at a time. The villainous gang bosses are given plenty of time for loud and evil cackling laughter. Eyeballs regularly leap from the sockets of gang members as their fellows meet a bloody end.

Against this background, the obligatory loud gwailo bully who bawls out Xiang and gets slapped looks almost restrained. Something else lacking restraint is the clothing. The awful loud colours on shirts and trousers remind those of a certain age just how fortunate we are that the 70s are dead and gone. Ugh. Better is the choice of background music. Breathe, from Pink Floyd’s classic Dark Side Of The Moon, is sampled more than once, as it was so many times in HK films of the 70s.

There is even a hint of where Marty McFly’s dangerous skateboard stunt in Back To The Future may have came from. Many of Xiang’s bicycle deliveries seem to have been to Victoria Peak, and he takes every opportunity to grab onto the back of a truck for an easier ride.

Overall, above average entertainment with a fair serve of quality fu biffo.
Reviewer Score: 6