The Monk's Fight (1979)
Reviewed by: STSH on 2001-01-31
Summary: Excellent
This is the first starring role I've seen Casanova Wong play. He and the film's producers seem to be paying homage to Toshiro Mifune, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Wang Yu et al. Casa is very much the taciturn, serious lone man on a mission. He is always focussed, apparently calm, until he explodes into action.

It's almost trivial to say that this guy's fighting skills are impressive. Actually, the fu in this film is great throughout, as well as being well-filmed (there are just enough slow-motion replays).

Not that it's non-stop action - there are big chunks of plot, but they hold the mood of the story very well, so they are not wasted.

There is one bad point about this otherwise-impressive effort. The mood is often undermined by the tinny and intrusive synthesizer soundtrack. I was going to say background music, but it is played so loud that it's more like foreground music. Mostly, the film would be better without it.

Being filmed largely in the desert and villages with many outdoor shots, this film looks very much like a mainland production, whereas the feel and the fighting style are much closer to the Japanese style than the Chinese. Briefly, the essential difference is that Chinese/HK fu/sword films generally emphasize lots of action and movement, whereas the Japanese tend to favour intense and extended concentration with little action, then relase it in a moment of swift and accurate action. This latter method is employed again and again in Monk's Fight.

Of necessity, this film contains much gore and even some cruelty, which is matched by ingenuity. For instance, on of the Wen's killers infiltrates the funeral of some of those whom Wen's men have already disposed of. The killer here (Choi Wang) sneak up to one of the sobbing family, carefully and quietly stands behind her and positions a meat skewer near her ear. At a moment when the chanting and clattering (i.e. music !) is loud, he pushes the skewer into the poor woman's ear and out the other. She is instantly killed. Then he lays a steadying hand, so that the body doesn't fall, and alarm the other family. Then, he proceeds to his next victim...

This film also does not suffer from the silliness which overburdens so many HK fu films. The tone is mostly very serious, although there is some light relief from one of Wen's outrageously effeminate generals.

I'm not completely sure about Pearl Cheung being the leading lady here. The woman is certainly one of the several actresses who looked a lot like Polly Kwan (I'm pretty sure it isn't Polly) and were reasonably prominent around this time. My next best guess would be Yeung Wai San, but I'm 80% confident it's Pearl.

This is an outstanding film, for fu and non-fu fans alike. Highly recommended, and worth seeking out, as it is hard to find.

Reviewer Score: 9