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Masked Avengers

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 04/30/2008
Summary: Animal violence spoils otherwise fun movie.

A band of masked bandits are causing trouble until a small group of heroes decide to stop them for reasons that seem to have passed me by.

I realised quite early on in this film a startling fact – I’ve seen more films by this director than any other. Forty-four films, to be exact. By now, I’m very familiar with his style and have drawn a couple of conclusions. One: by the late 70’s, he really didn’t give a rat’s backside about plot, consistency or plausibility. Two: Chang Cheh seems really uncomfortable with women.

It isn’t really necessary for the viewer to be aware of these facts, and it will certainly not affect the viewing experience, but it’s a shame that the carefully plotted historical epic went out of the window so completely, and a little odd that his world consists entirely of men. Sure, there are a couple of little girls, but as soon as they hit puberty they seem to disappear out of existence. An adult woman does appear in this film and hogs the screen for about 7 seconds - she does a little swoony, fainty dance, opens her mouth to deliver a line of dialogue and is promptly killed before speaking. There is no explanation of why she’s there (other than being a sister of one of the characters) or why she acts in such a peculiar manner. Unlike most, I don’t take Chang Cheh’s evident discomfort of the feminine form as “proof” of his homosexuality – just the opposite, in fact. However, it is quite hard not to notice certain “tendencies” in his films that can be construed as homoerotic, and Masked Avengers has more than its fair share of these tendencies, with bare-chested, muscle-bound men in nearly every frame.

Speaking of MASKED AVENGERS, I think it’s probably about time I got around to reviewing it, rather than musing on whether or not Chang Cheh was gay. My expectations were high – same director as CRIPPLED AVENGERS, some of the same Venom cast return (sadly, Sun Chien and Lo Meng, my favourite Venoms, do not appear) and the word “Avengers” in the title. Sounds like a sure-fire hit.

It’s evident early on that this is not quite as good as earlier Venom movies. The plot really is non-existent and it doesn’t have the kooky charm of CRIPPLED AVENGERS. Worse still, there’s a pretty despicable and gratuitous case of animal cruelty near the start that nearly made me switch off. Oh, and the title is somewhat misleading – the Avengers are actually unmasked, it’s the bandits who wear them.

However, animal snuff and minor gripes aside, MASKED AVENGERS has its moments of greatness. It suffers from the exact same problem as the earlier Venom movie DAREDEVILS in that it tries to add intrigue where it’s not wanted or needed, but at least it does not try to be too many things – a major downfall of the latter film. This time, it’s Phillip Kwok who takes centre stage as the cook-with-a-dark-past Gao Yao, and he’s the only character who has more than one dimension. Actually, his story, when he eventually tells it, is quite interesting.

And naturally, the action scenes are outstanding. The bad guys use tridents, which is pretty original. I don’t usually find weapon-work as interesting as unarmed combat, but I have to admit that the displays here are quite exciting. I won’t go and spoil the surprise by revealing who the culprit(s) are, but the showdown is well worth watching and recalls Chang’s glory days. It’s also apparent that some money went into the set design, although it’s possible that they were re-using some sets from earlier films.

So while there’s much to be indifferent or appalled about in MASKED AVENGERS, it can’t be ignored that it’s a pretty impressive action movie. If only there had been some thought given to the plot and characters, it might very well have become a genre classic. My favourite part, though, was when on of our heroes gets slain after buying a glove puppet for a little girl after she fell over on the street (a complete sequence of events that takes as much time to transpire as it takes to read that sentence!). He is killed by a Masked Avenger and the camera zooms in on the forlorn glove puppet on his hand to show the inhumanity of the bandits, which I thought was really funny. It loses something in the telling though, so go and see it for yourself.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 09/20/2007
Summary: a bit predictable

With only a few main characters, its not hard to figure out who the bad guys are, especially when one VENOM always ends up to be the bad guy.

The trident display was interesting to watch, though not that entertaining (its almost like theya re showing off) i bet its really hard to do!!

Still its a good movie to watch because you dont actually know which side is stronger at the end

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 08/27/2007

Somewhat in the style of The Five Venoms, with a 'who is good, who is bad?' theme that would be interesting if every revelation wasn't foreshadowed so blatantly. The plot doesn't make an awful lot of sense, so don't think too deeply on it. Chin Siu Ho gets a substantial role, though Kuo Chui's character is the only one that's at all interesting. Of course the action is the highlight in most Venoms films, and so too here - the trident work is especially interesting.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: kurama_tengu
Date: 06/07/2002
Summary: Good Weapons...Only 3/5 Venoms

In my review for "The Five Venoms", I warned prospective buyers of Ground Zero movies to be careful when buying their Venom movies. Well, "Masked Avengers" only stars 3 of the 5 Venoms(Kuo Chui, Lu Feng, and Chang Shieng), but is a pretty good movie.

Basically, the storyline surrounds a group of fighters looking to eliminate a band of trident-armed bandits who where masks while causing havoc. Not exactly a strong storyline, but it doesn't detract from the overall movie. Kuo Chui stars as one of the masked bandits who jumps ship and helps the group of fighters. Chang Sheng for once gets a bigger role as the leader of the fighters. The two fighters who take the place of Lo Meng and Sun Chien in this movie aren't bad fighters, but lack that "star" look the other Venoms have. They are probably best used in minor rolls instead of being the showcased villains.

The highlight of the battles are the good use of weapons. Besides the tridents, there are some innovative weapons used in this movie.

For only 3 Venoms present, this is not a bad movie to catch. The price is reasonable also, as I believe I paid around $10 US for the VHS tape. Not a must-see, but not a terrible choice either. [7/10]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: 5elementninja
Date: 01/03/2002
Summary: Another Venoms classic

Once again another all-around great movie from the Shaw Brothers and the Venoms crew. An all out weapons extravaganza is put on display here as the Masks are a crew of murderers who are betrayed and ultimately killed by one of their own who cannot take anymore of their evil ways.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: sirrunrunshaw
Date: 03/20/2001
Summary: must see for Venom fans

Great action by Chang Cheh,great spear work and fight chorography! A must see!