19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful movie on a superb DVD,
This review is from: The Prodigal Son [DVD] (DVD)
This is a classic period martial-arts movie that remains timeless a couple of decades later. Directed by Sammo Hung, it is based on a true story and contains some of the earliest signs of the Hong Kong style of martial arts action as we came to know it when it finally took a decent stranglehold in the west with 'The Matrix' (whose action sequences were choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, a veteran of HK cinema who gave Jackie Chan his big break in 1978).
The story centres around Leung Jaan (Yuen Biao), who believes he is the best fighter in town. However, an encounter with a homosexual Chinese Opera performer named Leung Yee-Tai (played by the late great Lam Ching-Ying) soon has him thinking differently, as Yee-Tai's Wing Chun mastery far outclasses the 'talent' Jaan possesses. It is then that Jaan learns the truth: his dad had been paying his previous opponents to lose so that Jaan wouldn't lose face (ironic, considering the guy who had supposedly been considered the town's champion brawler has just been duffed up with the greatest of ease in front of a whole Opera troupe!).
Jaan tries many desperate measures (including his father purchasing Yee-Tai's whole opera troupe) to get Yee-Tai to take Jaan as a Wing Chun student, but after having seen Jaan's cocky nature, constantly refuses. It is only after an attempt on Yee-Tai's life (in which Jaan intervenes to allow him to escape), not to mention a fight challenge from the best fighter of another town — Lord Ngai, played very well by Frankie Chan — where Yee-Tai has a sudden asthma attack, that he may have to consider passing on his knowledge to a willing student in case he is suddenly slain and his knowledge lost forever...
This movie is an absolute classic, and anyone who's into action movies and/or martial arts in general must have a look. Brilliant acting (especially by Lam Ching-Ying), masterfully-choreographed fight scenes (especially in the Yee-Tai ninja assassination attempt where you get to see single shots containing several people attacking Lam Ching-Ying at once that contain well over ten techniques — choreographer Sammo is excellent at this sort of thing. The duel between Lam Ching-Ying and Frankie Chan is also a fan favourite), and a calligraphy display from Sammo Hung (who plays Leung Yee-Tai's brother) that contains some amazing physical prowess and will have you looking at it again and again (admittedly Sammo was doubled by Yuen Biao for some of the more-gymnastic stuff).
The usual Hong Kong Legends extras such as trailers, the choice between dubbed and subtitled versions are here, as is the now-expected audio commentary from Bey Logan, who is still as informative and entertaining as ever. Interviews with Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung and Frankie Chan (the latter two speaking English) also exist, as does a text file paying tribute to Lam Ching-Ying (1952-1997), but the real gem of the extras is a documentary about Wing Chun containing some demonstrations from experts (namely Sifu Guy Lai and Sifu Austin Goh) and showing how Sammo had to make some changes for the film to stop the style from looking limp on screen whilst retaining the traditions and still being recognisable as Wing Chun.
The film also stars Lee Hoi-San (Sammo's nemesis in 'Magnificent Butcher'), Chong Fat (the friendly Taoist priest in 'Encounters Of The Spooky Kind', and Weird Cat in 'Magnificent Butcher') and Dick Wei (San-po in 'Project A').
Check this out! Comedy, action, Chinese Opera and some of the most amazing fights on celluloid make this a winner.