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K~X (1973)
The Young Dragons

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 09/03/2015
Summary: "we live for an ideal, whatever we do it is all the same" - Fan Ming

This is not a bad film by any definition though it is probably of more importance for what it means for the future career of the participants than for the actual quality of the film. This is the first directed full-length film from John Woo (credited as Wu Yu-sheng on the English titles). Originally Woo was co-director of this production, under the title of Farewell Buddy, with Peter Wong Hoi Yi* who had just created an independent movie company with Liu Chi-ho’s money. This was originally done in 1973 but had run afoul by the censors because of violence. It actually had to do mainly with some gloves that had needles in them worn by Fung Hak-on’s character in which you can still see in the film and some of the results of those gloves on Lau Kong (though in the last scene you may wonder where those marks went to on his face and you will notice he never shows that side as well) and Ng Ming-choi. You may wonder why they got such marks when you watch this. The reason was that they had to be cut or the film would not have been allowed to shown. The censorship board was worried that impressionable youths would be influenced to use these type of weapons. This hurts the continuity of that particular fight scene. Fortuitously the film was sold to Golden Harvest, Leonard Ho liked it and gave Woo a three year contract.

The story takes place during the Chinese Republican era with Henry Yu Yung (The Bloody Fists) as an opportunist but lovable rogue Kin, hard not to think of David Chiang in this role, who is the leader of small gang of efficient criminals, but is a small cog compared to the smuggling operation of Boss Lung (Chiang Nan) and his hired number-one thug Wang Fai (Funk Hak-on.) Kin steals a load of Japanese firearms from Lung and uses them as bait to get even more money (still do not agree why he gets rid of all but one.) As he is trying to make money off of this racket in the meantime a government agent Fan Ming (Lau Kong) is trying to stop these smuggler/racketeers as he has a personal vengeance against Boss Lung.

The fight scenes are decent-to-good though the scenery and photography tends to outshine the actual action. It was nice to see some throws in the choreography. The use of the horse and dragging was quite unexpected though probably a reference to one of the many westerns John Woo had seen. This is one of Jackie Chan’s earliest action director roles (a few of the films he did in 1973 including The Cub Tiger from Kwantung would be reedited and released in a later year.) I was surprised by how agile Ng Ming-choi was (he is the rascal sidekick of Kin) given his corpulent nature. He is almost like a mini-Sammo Hung. I probably should not have been surprised since he is also known as Yuen Ting as he was one of the Seven Little Fortunes and he is not the only “Yuen” in the movie.

One good reason to watch this if you are a Woo fan is the early trademarks and influences you can already see taking shape here from interesting ways of lighting cigarettes to birdcages. The slow-motion reminds me of Chang Cheh in which Woo apprenticed under as well as Sam Peckinpah which is a fan of. He also has a nice habit of experimenting with interesting angles, composition and movement of the camera. However, he completely overuses the zoom to the point of extreme annoyance. You can see the friendship and Doppelganger motif between the two main characters reminiscent of Hard Boiled with one good-hearted “bad guy” character and one character on the side of the law and the importance of personal code. Also included is the completely ruthless henchman character Wang Fai and corrupt Boss Lung which parallels both Mad Dog and Johnny Wong in Hard Boiled. While the male relationships seem to work well, the love quadrangle seems somewhat haphazard. Chang Cheh would have ignored it completely. But the ending definitely feels Woo-like and a precursor of things to come. I would recommend this for fans of Hong Kong cinema and/or John Woo though expect a very basic plot.

I had a “hey that’s Dean Shek” moment in the film.** The scene seemed compositionally somewhat out-of-place with Shek’s comic shtick and urine. That was one nasty streak. Wouldn’t you worry about slipping on that? Would you want customers to see that? In case you did not get enough of him here, Shek would work with John Woo in later films such as Laughing Times (ugh) and A Better Tomorrow II with one being much better than the other.

The print from the Shout! Factory R1 set Martial Arts Movie Marathon 2 is good with some noticeable combing (interlaced?). There are nice bright yellow removable English subtitles. The movie is in Mandarin and there is no English soundtrack. If you watch the trailer, the only extra, you will notice a nude scene that is not in the main film. I have no idea why that particular scene was cut out though it is in a French HK Video DVD release of this movie. It is not uncommon for trailers to have cut scenes by the director, but given the history of this movie I am curious on when it was cut out (director, distribution, other?)

* Golden Harvest took Peter Wong’s name off of the screen because it was determined he did not direct any of the movie. They also changed the title, added and took away scenes as well. Try to figure out which scenes were filmed years later.

** Now those who do not know who Dean Shek is might wonder why I am bringing him up. He is a very broad comedic actor that would turn up in many Hong Kong martial art films. He is an acquired taste like Ethel Merman or Pauly Shore.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: JUlibas
Date: 10/14/2003
Summary: Woo's feature length debut!

John Woo made his feature length directorial debut with the film Young Dragons. It's about shady gunsmugglers and a young punk who rips them off getting himself and his friends into all sorts of trouble.

The film (as with all of John Woo's earlier work) features themes and set pieces that would later on be expanded in his other films (the fight scene at the boss's mansion and the duel by the beach). Recommended for true fans of John Woo.

Watch out for a cameo apperence by John Woo and a very young Fui-On Shing! The fight scenes were co-directed by Jackie Chan.

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 08/13/2003

This flick was John Woo's debut as a director. The flick was originally finished in 1973 under an independent label, but due to it's heavy violence, it never got a release until it was shown in Taiwan in 1974 after Golden Harvest picked it up. The official release date in Hong Kong is 1975. I noticed in the Taiwanese release that the running time is shorter and missing all the nudity shots that is contained in the Hong Kong version. The flick is about a good guy bandit named Kin (Henry Yu Yung) who likes stealing from the rich, in particular, a local rich man-guns runner by the named of Lung (Chiang Nan). Kin heists a gun shipment from one of Lung's men, Lei Fu (Cheng Lei) and all hell breaks loose. Meanwhile, a police captain named Fan Ming (Lau Kong) is in town investigating Lung's dirty deeds incognito and strikes up a friendship (John Woo style) with Brother Kin. Boss Lung sends out his men and they ambush and try to kill Fan Ming (another John Woo twist). Brother Kin, doing what a John Woo hero always does, goes to avenge his brother by entering the Lung Mansion and wiping out all his fighters until meeting up with Boss Lung's best fighter, Yun (Fong Hark On), in a fight that proves to be meaningless. Tien Ni plays Lau Kong's fiancé and Hu Chin plays Little Hung, the courtesan at the brothel. You can also spot several young guys in the flick such as Shing Fui On and Dean Shek.

Reviewed by: Darryl
Date: 12/21/1999

Woo's first film is an exciting bit of entertainment pertaining tocorrupt Chinese triads (as opposed to non-corrupt?) who sell guns and ammunition to Japanese troops during the Sino-Japanese war. With a martial arts-expert on their side they slaughter anyone in their way until... Not too predictable, but enough so. Golden Harvest bought this independently produced film, re-edited it (reportedly, and it does have a good pace) and released it. Better than HAND OF DEATH, but not a bad film at all.

Reviewer Score: 7