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l (1981)
The Desperate Prodigal

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 12/21/2005
Summary: Awful

A dreadful waste of a lot of talent. The story is muddled nonsense, and it wanders all over the place. Characters enter the story for no apparent reason e.g. the Japanese player Bayashi.

It's hard to believe I was watching the same movie as the other reviewer, but it certainly is the same (the Saturn Productions DVD entitled Equals Against Devils).

The brawl scenes border on amateurish, and there are few enough of them to really be worth the effort to watch. Most of the screen time is taken up by either goofy light dialogue between the four friends or nasty exchanges between the two sides (Black Sinner's versus White Cloud's), and even that simple dichotomy is muddled by calling Black Sinner's side white and White Cloud's side black !

The muddled-headed story gives proceedings an eerie surreal quality. Girls in bikinis and bunny outfits wander around for much of the time, for no other apparent reason than decoration. One of these ladies turns out to be White Cloud's mistress, who is also such a hot shot pool (referred to as "billiards" !) player that she uses the cue with the heavy end hitting. The theme is pinched from Rocky, apparently a reference to someone who challenges the lead character, Alan.

Half the characters have no real connection with whatever the main story may be. For example, what was Chan Hung Lit's pipe smoking sleaze doing ? The best guess I can make is that Tin Peng shot quite a long movie, then edited it down for length. Methinks he cut it too far. The DVD cover says this one runs for 89 minutes, but it only runs 73 minutes. Wong Goon Hung is given top billing, but he wanders in and out of the story pretty much at random, and is on screen for only about ten minutes.

So, even though it I'd say this film is not worth watching, at least it doesn't drag on for very long. I guess that counts for something.

But why oh why Tin Peng wasted so much fu talent, and even some acting talent, on a small grab of undifferentiated brawl scenes rather than the great fu they are clearly capable of is beyond me.

If you can get this one cheap, as myself and the other reviewer did, then it may be worthwhile. Otherwise, no way !

Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: Frank Lakatos
Date: 11/23/2005
Summary: Very well made Taiwanese triad movie

A few days ago I was at the local pharmacy and was looking through a bargain DVD bin of movies that are 99 cents each. I didn't find any kung fu movies or any movies of my fancy, when I found this Saturn DVD titled Equal Against Devils, an obscure 1981 Taiwanese feature starring an all star cast with Champ Wang Goon Hung, Tien Peng, Kam Kong, Chen Sing, Dai Sai Ann, among others. There's no martial arts in this one, but the filmmaking, script, and acting is very well done and pacing is entertaining. It's about a pool shark who gets hired by the triads to do their games, but eventually gets double crossed with the mob friends that hired him through the devious big boss. The acting really suprised me, especially from these stars, who are usually relegated to mediocre scripts and one liners in their low budget Taiwanese kung fu movies. Kam Kong, quite unrecognizable in an elegant Italian suit is exceptionally cool, while the subdued evilness of Chen Sing and Dai Sai An adds color, while the cool professionalism of Champ Wang and Tien Peng, who have this natural chemistry together through working together for so many years, keep the movie flowing. The editing was nicely done, conveying the emotions of the characters and the seriousness of the situations quite well. The riot scenes outside of the pool hall(it's worse than a soccer match or any riot I have ever seen) are unintentionally hilarious and the ending is a non generic VERY well surprise that only a John Woo or seriously talented HK filmmaker could think of and shoot. I was currently out of extra spending money at the time and was very pleased and surprised to find such a neat film this cheap and this available. The version I saw was the Joseph Lai version which is listed as being made in 1985, although the HKMDB lists the original title The Desperate Prodigal as being actually made in 1981. I don't know if Joseph Lai edited the original version for his English dub but it seems to be one complete movie. I had bought two other Saturn discs for 99 cents last year, Street Fighters Part 2 and Fighting Duel of Death, which were competantly made enjoyable Taiwanese triad movies starring the obscure Taiwanese actrors Lyon Chan and Sean Lee, which I have no idea what their real names are and would like to know. I do know that Sean Lee, or the good guy in both movies mentioned did star in the Taiwanese for of Joseph Lai's Ninja Squad which I saw on Telemundo Channel 51 last year. You never know what you can find on tv or in those discount bins. These Taiwanese triad movies try to take themselves seriosly and in the case of Equals Against Devils, the outcome was rather successful given the combined talent that was involved. Not for everyone's tastes, but a nice surprise nonetheless. Buy it when you have the change and the chance. It's a Saturn disc, and should be easy to find. Highly recommended. ****1/2/*****