When Taekwondo Strikes
aka 跆拳震九州 aka Sting of the Dragon Masters aka Kickmaster aka Tai quan zhen jiu zhou
Written by Gwak Il-ro and Chu Yu
Directed by Wong Fung
When martial arts movies are talked about, there is the practice by certain people of just labeling all martial arts films as kung fu films. Of course, fans of the genre know there are many different types of martial arts cinema, from kung fu to karate to taekwando to Pencak Silat to Muay Thai. And all of those have their own subgroups and subsubgroups, and films will mix styles, often as a selling point. For When Taekwondo Strikes, taekwondo is obviously the featured martial art, even Jhoon Rhee – “the father of American Taekwondo” – is one of the stars in his only film role. You can also spot Sammo Hung, Lam Ching-Ying, and Yuen Biao in the stunt teams, which is always a fun game with these older flicks.
When Taekwondo Strikes is one of hundreds of films that takes place during the Japanese Occupation, this time on the Korean peninsula. It also scores points for mention the use of Korean women as comfort women to the Japanese troops overseas, as the evil Bansan Karate School engages in this practice.
When Taekwondo Strikes features some great cinematography tricks that make it a far better film than just your random basher. The shots while the Japanese are threatening work great in establishing a mood. In the beginning, the Japanese men are shot from an upward angle, thus making them look more powerful and threatening. The Koreans who are victimized are shot at a downward angle, making them look weak. As the heroic Koreans get more brave and powerful, standing up to their oppressors, the shots become even. Eventually, the triumphant Koreans tower over their former oppressors as the camera angles reverse.
There is also a lot of religious imagery, especially crucifixion. Both the captured Father Louis and then the captured Li Jun Dong are both tied up in a crucifixion manner. In the beginning of the film, the Japanese chase a Korean who knows taekwondo (thus marking him as anti-Japanese) into a church run by Westerners. The priest will not talk, and when the Japanese slap one of his parishioners, he slowly turns his other cheek towards them.
Besides the cinematography, the fight choreography is well done, the battles being consistently entertaining and feeling furious and dangerous, even if Angela Mao is always in control. The Japanese villains are always presented as threatening, and even though they can be defeated they will not hesitate to harm the loved ones of anyone who dares resist them.
Mary chases off the Japanese who are threatening the church members, thus sealing her fate as being part of the resistance. Father Louis will not leave his church even though the Japanese are certain to return for revenge. All attempts to rescue and save him just result in him not leaving.
During one of the times they check on Father Louis, Li Jun Dong goes into Huang Li Chen’s restaurant and asks hr to check up on him. She agrees, but instead of finding Father Louis she find the local Japanese boss and around ten goons. She beats the crap out of all of them, including a long brutal beatdown of the Japanese boss guy and finds out where Father Louis is being held.
When she’s picked up by the Japanese authorities later, she runs and then beats them all up, killing several including their local boss, and more Japanese men run in fear. The Japanese secret service retaliates by killing her mother, driving Huang Li Chen firmly into the resistance movement.
Mary goes to see the Japanese governor to see her uncle, and while there gets into a fight with one of the local tough guys and bites a chunk out of his thigh. I’m not sure, but I don’t think that’s a legit taekwondo move…
The Japanese will only release Father Louis in trade for Li Jun Dong, and only for one more day. Li Jun Dong agrees, but they just kill Father Louis anyway and capture Li.
Now Huang Li Chen, Mary, and Jin Zheng Zhi must taekwondo their way through dozens of Japanese and not get captured. But as Huang Li Chen is Angela Mao, the Japanese are doomed. I mean, I wonder who will win???
Forget atom bombs, we should have just dropped a dozen Angela Maos on Japan and they would have surrendered in ten minutes.
Rated 8/10 (Scars of the cloth, just in case you missed the religious iconography, too tired to get beat up, the tears of a fake nun, captured, another Japanese Hitler, invading Japanese, invading Japanese)
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