The 36 Deadly Styles (1979)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2019-09-18
Summary: Should have been better than mediocre...
Wai Chi (Nick Cheung) and his uncle are on the run from a group of thugs who are looking for some sort of revenge. They find refuge in a Shaolin temple, but the thugs manage to locate them and a battle ensues that results in the death of the uncle and a majority of the antagonists. Wai Chi is allowed to stay with the monks in the temple, but his bad behaviour eventually gets him kicked out, and he crosses paths with Chan Lau (the leader of the thugs) and the rest of his crew. A dairy merchant (Fan Mei-Sheng) and his daughter Yu Ti (Jeannie Chang) get wrapped up in the fights as well, as it turns out that Fan fought the thug group in the past, along with one of the monks in the temple (Yueng Chak-Lam). Wai Chi and Yu Ti both know one half of a secret kung fu style, and when combined, they take on the top brother of the thugs (Hwang Jang-Lee) to avenge the death of Wai Chi’s father a decade before.

Given who is in the cast, The 36 Deadly Styles should be much better. Unfortunately, Hwang Jang-Lee has only a couple fights, including the final one. Even stranger, Mark Long and Jack Lung’s characters are basically throw-aways that are only there to have a fight near the end. The fight is good, but essentially had no connection to the rest of the movie. The bad guys are either incredibly annoying (Chan Lau), or have the worst wigs I’ve ever seen in a kung fu film. Bolo Yeung seems like he spends most of his fights making sure the enormous braided wig doesn’t fall off, and Hwang Jang-Lee’s hairpiece is almost as offensive. The main problem with the film though are the fights. They can be classified as shapes, but they are done in the most unexciting way. After every move there is a distinct pause before the next, and it makes the choreography look like practice sessions. The only one that keeps up a good pace is unsurprisingly Mark Long vs Jack Lung, who have fought numerous times on celluloid. Nick Cheung is a fine martial arts actor, but his fight with Hwang at the end is silly and contrived. Hard to recommend this film, even with the abundance of quality action stars involved.
Reviewer Score: 4