aka Shen long
Directed by Juang Lung (as Huang Lung)
Written by Tsai Yung
Deadly Strike is a pretty good kung fu film. It follows a pretty average plot, but takes it and runs with it, making the entire film be a whole lot of fun. There is rarely a dull moment, and they only occur when setting up the next cool fight sequence. The basic plot involves a new sheriff taking on a gang of bandits, recruiting some prisoners to help him as the bandit thugs get tougher and tougher. It all plays out like a video game, and Bruce Li does a good new Sheriff who is eager to kick some bandit butt and save the people. And many people die. The plot sounds familiar, and the style is similar to films about the Old West. I am sure there are probably research appears on how old film Westerns influence films from all over the globe, but I am hardly an expert in the matter enough to give more than an outline. Taking basic stories and transplanting them to new settings is not a new event, and it continues to happen to this day in multiple directions.
The plot of the film necessitates that there is a great number of actors and memorable bit parts, so we will have one of the rather large Roll Calls that stretch throughout the film review. We have tried to identify many of the actors, but there is scant information and many are either best guesses or left blank for later. Some of the faces are familiar to fans of the 1970s kung fu film genre, so it is only a matter of time before everyone is properly credited. So we will start out with our main characters:
The new captain, Captain, strolls into town, but the troops are a bunch of lazy, degenerate gamblers. So Captain’s first action is to beat all of them up. That will learn them! They learn fast, and soon Captain has their complete loyalty. He also learns they have little motivation, low pay, and are outnumbered and outskilled by the roving bandits who threaten the townspeople.
The evil guys don’t like that, Chow Tin Pow and the other lieutenants vow to take Captain down. Captain knows that he must use strategy to win, so he decides to use prisoners in a sort of Dirty Dozen scenario. If they help take down the evil gang, they get their freedom. We are introduced to a few of the prisoners (and a few others sign up to die quicker than the rest.) We get small biographies for Chow Quay Ah, Ni Gi (One eye), Wei Gun, and Wang Chow. They will start on their mission the next morning, and Captain even gives Chow Quay Ah freedom to go see his mother (and we find out, his son, who has lost his mother as well.) Then a girl shows up and wants to come..wha??? Girls can’t go on suicide missions to take down roving gangs! Get out of here, girl!
Later that night, the girl, Yi Lin, attacks Captain in a bid to get on the team. She says she will use her body to seduce the gang members. It seems to work, as she is marching out with them the next morning (in man clothing and a neat hat.) If you like seeing people march, you will be happy for a while. There are some cops along with the prisoners, so it is not entirely people with low morals. They reach a pool, but their joy of finding water is shortlived, because of an ambushed! A whole bunch of goons come out to fight, we get some impressive fighting here. There is Captain fighting a bunch of pole attackers, while One-Eye fights the leader of this small gang. They win the day, then stroll into a village for some rest. But everyone in the village is a killer! The head thug yells “KILL!”, except all the killers are killed by the good guys in less than a second. The Thug Leader looks at them and says “I’m sorry, but you all have to die!”
This guy has some big confidence. We get a long, impressive fight sequence where he fights multiple heroes one by one, but is finally beaten by Chow Quay Ah and gives information on to where Fan Ta Hu is hiding, and dies. Later, Captain executes one of the prisoners who tried to escape twice. Captain is all about discipline and is serious all the time. The bad guys decide to make a special unit of all their toughest meant to send after the Captain, except this doesn’t really happen, so I don’t know why they included this scene.
In the morning, we have an ambush…of one guy! He is good with knives and spears, and Captain knows him. They fight, and Captain wins. The end of that fight. The group is also being followed by the two Flintstone rejects, who we call the Caveman Twins. They kill one of the police officers who knows the area, and then kill the cook character who had ran off due to being scared. The dead cook’s body is tossed to the heroes in a bag, then the two Cavemen attack, one on top of other. Yes, the Crazy Vulcan is standing on the shoulders of the Fat Bearded Caveman. It is like the circus is in town, and it sucks. Captain has to take them down, but initially the fight doesn’t go well. Captain realized he should attack the knees of the bottom Caveman Twin, and does. Weak knees=can’t support some guy on your shoulders, and their whole attack plan falls to crap! One twin accidentally kills the other, then is killed himself by Captain. No more Caveman Twins.
What wacky character will we run into next? Next up they head to a temple, where they kill the temple priest, who isn’t a real priest. He isn’t the real fake priest, and was just a decoy for the real Temple Guy, who comes out with four men. They do..The Four Snake Shape Array! This is ridiculous! I love it. Watch the clip:
Captain kill the snakers (who slide a lot) and then kill the Temple Guy, who has snakes painted on his hands. Because you needed to know that detail. We finally meet Fan Ta Hu, who is busy punching at three real cobras and dodging their strikes. Fan Ta Hu declares he wants to kill Captain himself!
The next guy Captain has to kill is holed up in a castle, and as people come in they are searched by guards. So the team sneaks in one by one disguised as deformed guys or gay guys or other things. You would think that would rouse suspicions, but only one guard even seems to notice, and he is either easily fooled or easily disgusted. He is also easily horned up, as he takes a liking to Yi Lin and tries to get her to come back to his place. This forces Wei Gun to break cover, but he is killed by the massive, massive amount of guards (the others can’t help or they all will die.)
We find out the gang lieutenant holed up here can see in the dark, so Captain fights him while Quay Ah throws torches. No one thought to use light to fight the guy who sees in the dark? For shame. A dying guard sounds the alarm, but it is too late for their boss, who dies. The rest of the team manages to escape, even with dozens of people chasing them. They move on, climbing over mountains in a long sequence that reminds you of Lord of the Rings, except done 25 years earlier. Peter Jackson is a thief! Did you know that Lumbard Street is in ancient China’s mountains? Because it is.
Up ahead is a camp with guards, and luckily it happens to be the next group of people they have to kill. Since they go in to kill them anyway. I am sure there are some random nomads who are happy they didn’t camp there for the night. Everyone (except the thief Wang Chow and Yi Lin) sneaks in and starts killing guards until the alarm is sounded. The fighting goes good until the Genie shows up! Yes, a guy in a turban who begins tossing everyone around. He likes to throw people and wear turbans, it’s weird. Quay Ah gets an idea, and is soon covered in oil the camp had lying around. Genie can no longer get a good grip to toss, and soon is beaten and killed. Sadly, Captain’s assistant Wu Tung is killed in this fight.
Back at the hang out where the bad guys live, there is a new girl…Yi Lin! She is the new girl for the bald master Chow Tin Pow, but things go to crap when she is recognized by another evil lieutenant named Chung Lo, who used to be in love with her. He stops Yi Lin from killing Chow Tin Pow, but will not stop being a bandit despite his feelings for Yi Lin. This love story is nice and complicated, and soon a melee happening as the rest of the team is beating up bodyguards causes chaos to happen. In the aftermath, Yi Lin is killed by Chow Tin Pow, Chung Lo kills Chow Tin Pow, and One Eye kills Chung Lo. One Eye didn’t know Chung Lo was striking against Chow Tin Pow, and has regrets over his actions. Now is not the time for regrets, as Chung Lo also slipped them a key card to get into the final hideout, where Fan Ta Hu is waiting for them.
At this point, only four of our heroes are left – One Eye, the thief Wang Chow, Quay Ah, and Captain. The four of them must fight the most formidable hideout yet! Captain uses the passcard he was given to go directly to see Fan Ta Hu, while the other three just attack the front of the camp. Seconds after Captain enters. Not suspicious at all! And weird. What happened to all their plans? Captain fights the boss Fan Ta Hu, who is powerful. Their battle is long and grueling. Fan Ta Hu also sniffs drugs so he doesn’t feel pain. The other three heroes manage to battle their way inside with no problems, and soon One Eye and Quay Ah join Captain in fighting Fan Ta Hu. Wang Chow isn’t a martial artist, so he can’t help with the fighting. But he can help with the stealing, and steals Fan Ta Hu’s drugs! Fan Ta Hu is mad, and feeling pain, and tries to get his drugs back. He beats Wang Chow mercilessly, and Wang Chow dies. The other three are badly injured, but One-Eye managed to knife Fan Ta Hu in the gut. One-Eye almost dies for his trouble, but Captain saves him. Fan Ta Hu is dead, and Captain smiles the first smile One Eye ever saw him crack. It will be the last One Eye sees, because he dies right after. Captain lies on the ground, laughing at the situation, as the only other living party member Quay Ah looks on. And that is the end!
This is a pretty good kung fu film, it is filled with lots of action, has a non-stop pace, and the villains are crazy without being so over the top you are drawn out of the fantasy. Even though I don’t mind super-crazy films, the serious tone of much of the film makes the semi-serious nature of many of the villains work well. The whole sequential progression of foes is nicely done. There are also good moments of comedy relief, especially involving Wang Chow, and a few dramatic episodes that give us some characterization for the cast. The only problems are the dubbing, I have seen enough of these I recognize voices by now, and that can be distracting. I also believe I have a cut version, as there is a version with all the nunchucks scenes removed, and I barely remember anyone with one. So, hopefully the one minute of nunchucks didn’t have an important plot point attached to it. Overall, Deadly Strike is highly recommended, and it was a nice surprise to watch, as going into it I had no idea if it would be good or not.
The Villains in this piece are a big part of the enjoyment, so they get their own roll call. Just chalk it up to me being obsessively stupid again and making a huge cast list:
Rated 7/10 (The Son, The mother, the hung, the fake Priest, The missing eye, Death of a Vulcan, Funny face)
Please give feedback below!