Shaolin Invincible Guys
"...something of a minor gem that's at least worth watching once."
- Joseph Kuby
Shaolin Invincible Guys (1978)
AKA: Shaolin Deadly Hands
Director: Raymond Lui Shing-Gung
Writers: Ni Kuang, Raymond Lui Shing-Gung
Cast: Raymond Lui Shing-Gung, Chi Kuan-Chun, Man Kong-Lung, Shut Chung-Tin, Joh Yim-Yung, Chen Siu-Chen, Tsang Chiu, Wong Fei-Lung, So Kwok-Leung, Wong Chi-Sang, Chen Chiu, Ho Hing-Nam, Chu Siu-Wa, Woo Hon-Cheung, Man Lee-Pang, Choi Chung-Chau, Lam Gwong-Wing
Running Time: 89 min.
Plot: The girlfriend of a conman is being held in a brothel and he must try to raise 200 tales of golds as a dowery. So he cheats a country simpleton out of his money then goes and loses it in the casino resulting in the country man feeling sorry for him. The two become friends and as they are both expert fighters start working as instructors for a local big boss but this causes real trouble...
JOSEPHY KUBY'S REVIEW: This is a genuine effort to do something new. Of course with any film you want to do something different that's not been done before but a lot of Kung Fu films tend to do many takes on the same formula.
A telling example of this is that when I purchased the film, it was less to do with its star than the intriguing plot. When I first read about it in a shop, I was curious as to what revelations were to be found with the destinies of our protagonists. Shaolin Invincible Guys, ignoring the immature title, is one of those action films where you watch it to see if the characters reach their goals rather than for the sake of watching action unfold from an action-friendly premise.
The story had some neat twists, if not quite as Hitchcockian as Sammo Hung's The Victim. The film manages to shock and entertain in equal measures and the way the (seemingly) unconnected plot threads come together is surprising and satisfying simultaneously.
The music had some wonderfully grim moments that really send chills down the spine and help punctuate the action so that you can feel the tension so much that you could cut it with a sword, let alone a knife. It certainly helps that the film's atmosphere is genuinely bleak thanks in part to the use of lighting and poker face agendas of the various characters. Granted you're not going to confuse it for a David Fincher or Peter Hyams movie as far as darkness goes; but it's still dark for a Kung Fu movie.
The action is above average with equal emphasis on fists, feet and weaponry. The only problem with the action is that it falls into the typical pitfall of having a group fight done in an obvious manner where one person comes out at a time which seems to push its luck as far as sustaining disbelief is concerned, but this is done ever so rarely throughout the course of the picture.
Besides, you can't help but feel a little excited when the action goes beyond the flat-fisted variety and introduces some animal styles, and the camerawork has some nice variety rather than being stilted and statically timed so I guess the action isn't too flawed. I guess one has to remember that very few people could stage group fights as convincingly as Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan (especially the former). One of the most exemplary examples of group fighting in the classical Kung Fu genre is Lion vs. Lion. Hsu Hsia and Chin Yuet Sang made other movies look weak in arrangement when they choreographed the group encounters.
As usual for Hong Kong films (particularly within this period), there's an awkward tendency to lift music cues from other films. Here, we here a cue from Half A Loaf of Kung Fu and even Taxi Driver. When one of the characters die, we hear a cue taken from the aftermath of Travis Bickle's confrontation with the mafia hoods. This over-usage of other music cues can cause a disorientating effect.
The dubbing is flawed because as the film progresses, the nature of the dubbing follows that old stereotype of the dubbing not keeping up with the lip movement. Also, towards the end of the film the audio track switches between English and Mandarin - further creating a disorientating experience.
To top things off, the ending is abrupt with no real explanation as to how the remaining characters part ways.
Regardless, the film remains something of a minor gem that's at least worth watching once.
JOSEPHY KUBY'S RATING: 7/10