Painted Faces (1988)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2020-05-30
Summary: A trip down memory lane...
Master Yu Jim-Yuan (Sammo Hung) runs a Peking Opera School in Hong Kong. His teaching techniques are strict and punishment even more harsh. His students endor not only difficult times in the school, but on the outside as well as they try to cope with their feelings of being outcasts within the adolescent community. Eventually Master Yu sees that the times are changing and the interest has shifted to films and away from stage shows. He tries to prepare his top students for work after he has left Hong Kong.

Painted Faces is primarily a vehicle to show the childhood of Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao. There are no pseudonyms here, everyone calls each other by their actual names. Jackie is introduced early in the film as a new student dropped off by his mother who struggles to fit in. Sammo is the Dai Si Hing (Big Brother) of the school, basically the main assistant to Master Yu who eventually takes Jackie under his wing once his true potential is recognized. Yuen Biao is more of a humorous character and the youngest of the group, barely over the age of six or seven as the movie opens. Everything in the film is solid, with strong acting from Sammo and a nice appearance from Cheng Pei-Pei as a fellow teacher who specializes in dance. Lam Ching-ying has an excellent supporting role as an old classmate of Sammo who struggles to integrate into the new world of kung fu movies. The settings in Hong Kong are also amazing, from the piers to moss-covered buildings and the cut-back streets that wind their way to Victoria Harbour. It’s a look back at what many consider the glory days of Hong Kong and which sadly may be lost forever going forward. Mostly though, the film shows the struggle of Master Yu and the cultural shift during the late 60s and early 70s away from traditional forms of entertainment and the rise of the film industry. A nostalgic and quality movie from Alex Law and Sammo.

Reviewer Score: 7