"Basically, if you can sit through most of the movie, you’ll be kindly rewarded with the kung fu action towards the film’s last third."
- Mighty Peking Man
The Condemned (1976)
Director: David Chiang
Cast: David Chiang, Lily Li Li-Li, Choi Wang (Tsai Hung), Pai Ying, Guk Fung (Ku Feng), Woo Gam, Kong Yeung, Lee Hoi Sang, Chan Shen, Keung Hon, Shum Lo, Wong Ching, Yuen Sam, Robert Tai, Shih Ting Ken, Poon Cheung Ming, Gam Man Hei, Yen Shi-Kwan, Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng
Running Time: 102 min.
Plot: See review below.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Obviously, the folks at Celestial (the company who released this DVD) decided to write the plot without even watching the movie first. Check out the description off the DVD case:
“In the film, Chiang plays a righteous character who helps an unjustly imprisoned swordsman accused of stealing. Together they break out of prison and serve notice to all the evil men in their lives that a new deadly duo is in town.“
Well, it’s half right. They do break out of prison to get revenge. And yes, David Chiang does play a righteous character who helps an unjustly imprisoned character, only, the character (played by Tsai Hung) is not a swordsman, he’s a straight up kung fu fighter (totally swordless!); and he wasn’t accused of stealing, he was thrown into prison because he was blamed for murder. Also, the thief they’re talking about is actually Chiang himself, not Tsai Hung’s character.
Anyways, not really important, but I thought I’d point that out since some of us like to watch films based on plot.
After watching The Condemned and David Chiang’s other directorial project, The Drug Addict (which I rated a 4/10), it’s pretty safe to say that the guy definitely belongs in front of the camera. In this case, he not only directs The Condemed, but also stars in it, along with Tsai Hung.
Bascially, The Condemned is shitty and decent at the same time.
Much of the film is draggy, uninteresting and almost feels like you’re watching a non-Shaw Brothers generic kung fu flick (not to say that all Shaw flicks are good...). Even David Chiang's performance is sorta half-assed. I mean, we still get that David Chiang charm, but here, his performance seems a tad less magnetic - let’s put it this way, Chang Cheh gets a better performance out of the guy.
In addition to David Chiang, Chan Shen, Pai Ying, Ku Feng and Lily Li, we are introduced to Tsai Hung’s character, the second half of the duo. I don’t know much about the actor, since I’ve I’ve only seen him in a couple of other titles (and he usually plays a bad guy), but I can tell you this much: he has as much charasima as a bowl of corn flakes. He looks like a lizard and has some of the worst facial expressions I've ever seen; but on the other side of the coin, he's one hell of a bad ass. And you'll know why David Chiang picked him to begin with once you're a little more than half way through the movie...
And this is where The Condemned gets decent. It nearly becomes a Bruceploitation movie with the way Tsai Hung takes on the bad guys with his Bruce Lee-style fighting moves: Fights are direct and solid, guys are falling to the ground from a single punch or kick, etc. Meanwhile, snippets from Lalo Schifrin’s Enter The Dragon score are playing in the background (either that, or a soundtrack that sounds very similar in style).
One thing I really dug was the cool visual effects which suddenly appear out of nowhere. At one point, blood literally drips (not splashes) down from the camera lense. Also, not sure if this is the first film to so, but there are a couple of bone-cracking special effects (ie Romeo Must Die) that are both effective and cheesy.
Basically, if you can sit through most of the movie, you’ll be kindly rewarded with the kung fu action towards the film’s last third. It gets violent, bloody and even catches you by surprise with some of its cruelty.
All in all, not bad. Not good. Like I said, it's shitty and decent at the same time. I can think of hundreds of kung fu films to watch before recommending this one...
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 5.5/10