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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Raging Rivals (1981) review


Hwang Jang Lee, Jacky Lee, Sam Yuen, Stan Yuen, David Yuen, Alain Chung, Benny Hui, David Chan, John Lo, Bob Kim, Philip Min, Pearl Chi, Lee Hoi Lung, April Ko, Bobby Mah

Directed by Godfrey Ho

The short version: Typical bad movie from prolific hack, Godfrey Ho is held together by a bravura performance from Hwang Jang Lee. What makes it so special is that Hwang was most closely associated to his villain roles and to see him in a heroic role (which he did a couple of other times) was unusual. Hwang does things here in terms of character nuance he's never done before and seems to be having a ball. Recommended for Hwang Jang Lee fans as they will appreciate this role far more than casual viewers.

Traveling street peddlers are pressured to pay protection money to the mob and refuse. Meanwhile, a rich college student learns that his father has ties with gangsters. The young man joins the poor gypsies against the criminals.

This is one of the most unusual and probably the most ambitious movie to star Korean super kicker, Hwang Jang Lee. It's a typical Asso Asian production from hack director, Godfrey Ho, but Hwang's varied performance is the reason to watch. As per most of Godfrey Ho and Joseph Lai's movies, the picture operates on the flimsiest of plot lines. It's so disjointed at times, it's difficult to tell what's going on. What holds it all together are the amazing kicking abilities of the star, Hwang Jang Lee.

Ho's movie also bears similarities to Chang Cheh's THE CHINATOWN KID (1977) with the inclusion of a rich kid/poor kid scenario. This plot contrivance really isn't necessary and adds nothing to the film aside from coming off as an afterthought to pad out the running time. Still, Hwang Jang Lee's plentiful scenes of ass kicking is the sole reason for watching this movie. Godfrey Ho was a "master" at making movies seem like two pictures spliced together. Actually, that was the case most of the time when it came to his directorial efforts.

Aside from HJL, none of the other cast stands out. It's all a jumbled mess and the dubbed dialog grates on the nerves. The word 'bastard' is uttered some two dozen or more times leaving the "plot" nearly incomprehensible. I've seen the movie some three times and I still can't remember if any of the characters are ever called by name save for one or two occasions.

Despite how awful it is, what makes this movie special is the fact that Hwang Jang Lee plays a hero; something he only did a few times. This is his best hero role only because he shows off a side of his personality you never get to see. He gets decked out in various costumes and disguises, plays a trumpet, has a sex scene, does comedy and shows off a lot of his trademark kicking ability. Outside of HJL, there is literally NOTHING else to recommend here.

Even with its jumbled together storyline, RAGING RIVALS is one of Godfrey Ho's most cohesive movies if you can believe the word 'cohesive' could ever apply to anything on his resume. A terrible movie, it's not nearly as bad as Ho's other modern day brawler with HJL entitled SECRET EXECUTIONERS (1981). HJL also played an effective hero in his directorial debut, HITMAN IN THE HAND OF BUDDHA (1981) and his other good guy role in FIVE FINGERS OF STEEL (1982) in which he shared the screen with his colleague, the renowned Korean master kicker, Kwan Young Moon.

Hwang Jang Lee, Korean kung fu fans and Godfrey Ho completists are the only ones who will find enjoyment out of this. As has already been stated several times, the only reason to watch from start to finish is the tour de force of Hwang Jang Lee, a performance whose English dubbing attempts and fails to derail the picture. Godfrey Ho's career lasted some 20 years and outside of his Shaw Brothers work as an AD and a scant few brainless and enjoyable kung fu quickies (MAGNIFICENT NATURAL FIST, FURY IN SHAOLIN TEMPLE), that was about 15 years too long.

This DVD can be purchased here-- FAR EAST FLIX

1 comment:

tim gueguen said...

The costumes are a good sign of the low budget. It's obviously supposed to be set before WW2, yet some of the outfits look like they come from the early '80s, especially during the crowd scenes. I doubt too many Chinese children wore t shirts with logos on them before the war. It's surprising someone didn't have an '80s style skinny tie.

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