aka 大太監 aka Traitorous
Written by Cheung San-Yee
Directed by Sung Ting-Mei
In the 1970s, the most dangerous occupation in Taiwan was being Polly Shang Kuan’s father in a movie. And once again, Shaolin Traitorous involves Polly playing a character that is avenging the deaths of her parents. But, shockingly enough, Polly isn’t the focus of the flick, it’s Carter Wong as Shang Yung, who survives the massacre of his family as a child and then trains at Shaolin Temple and eventually go get revenge.
Story wise, Shaolin Traitorous is a by-the-numbers revenge flick. But the choreography makes it rise a bit above the crowd. There is an obsession with array attacks, and there are multiple scenes with many guards stacked on top of each other in a huge human fence formation. Though fun to look at, I’ve never really understood how these attacks do anything except present a bigger target. But maybe that’s the trick…
Aside from the many guards stacking, if you’ve seen one of these films, you know the score. If they’re your thing, then you will enjoy the crap out of Shaolin Traitorous. If you’re just seeking some kung fu thrills, it will do the trick. But it’s not going to be a film you rave to everyone about on Twitter.
It was a peaceful house with three people and a kid..until THEY came! The Royal Guard or something. Lead by Tin Erh Keng, who joined with Wei Chung Hsien and did bad things, he brought the Officer from North City and the Head of Guards from East City with him to kill the Yungs! Obviously… Of course, the Yungs aren’t going down without a fight. But they do die eventually, as young Shang Yung watches from bushes. He sees the trick sword Officer of North City uses, and takes his mother’s bracelet with bells on it, which he wears as a necklace.
Eventually, young Shang Yung ends up outside Shaolin Temple and prays and prays. Eventually the monks let him in, and he begins training, first gathering water which seems to be the standard newbie task according to the kung fu films I watch. He also sees the 18 Bronzemen, which are just guys in gold paint. Maybe they are supposed to be statues, or maybe the temple just has 18 guys standing around in 18 different poses because they needed busywork to justify the 18 new employees. If you don’t use your department’s budget, you lose it!
It is now years later and Shang Yung is grown. He has learned a lot so he can just leave and go get revenge. Meanwhile, Tin Erh Keng is having his royal guard do various martial arts displays. Hsiao Yun Erh shows up to fight all the guards, and Tin Erh Keng has them do two main combos – Tien Lo Set and Tien Lo Net. Tien Lo Set is an array attack, which means guards jump on the shoulders of other guards until they are three guards tall and five guards wide. Then the top guards jump down and fight a bit, then jump back up. I question the value of this attack, but the movie says it is good. Who am I to argue with the logic of the movie? Tars Tarkas, that’s who! Tien Lo Net is when the guard just whips out a giant net. The net scores them a win over Hsiao Yun Erh, but as Tin Erh Keng was just demonstrating the powers of the two attacks to his adoptive daughter no one suffers any consequences for losing.
In the city outside, a guy named Master Chen Wen Shui and his crew are hiding from the royal guard in a restaurant, but are found out. They get captured until Shang Yung pops up to beat down all the guards. Tin Erh Keng kills the royal guard commander for losing that fight, because evil leaders always do that stuff. Tin Erh Keng sends Hsiao Yun Erh next. Shegoes into the inn Shang Yung is saying at, orders a bunch of food and a barrel of booze, and throws the barrel of booze at Shang Yung. Shang Yung just throws the bottle back. She then throws food at him in plates or on chopsticks, but he just eats the chopsticked food and stacks the plates (as he is too full to eat more.)
Hsiao Yun Erh then tries to fight him. When guards show up outside the door, Shang Yung leaps out of the window onto a horse and rides off. Holy Western cliche, Batman! Master Chen is trapped by Officer of North City, but Shang Yung arrives to save him again. This fight is longer, and Officer of North City has hook swords with spring levers and ejecting chains. But Shang Yung knows the trick, having seen it kill his father. Shang Yung dodges and kills Officer of North City. That’s what you get for not having a real character name, Officer of North City.
As for Master Chen, he is never seen again, so that whole plot line went nowhere!
First Head and Hsiao Yun are sent to get Shang Yung now. Hsiao Yun spots and confronts him by herself, but when he says he will kill Tin Erh Keng, Hsiao Yun gets mad and attacks him. And somehow he didn’t know she was a girl until he pulls off her hairband.
Oh, come on! I know this is a common plot device, but there wasn’t ANY indication at all that Hsiao Yun was supposed to be undercover as a dude. Her dad even calls her “Adoptive Daughter” and she is wearing full makeup with no effort to conceal her chest. This is just out of left field.
Shang Yung says he won’t fight a girl, so she tells him to show up at Yellow Bay tomorrow. I don’t know why, maybe Burning Man or something. No, wait, First Head and a bajillion Royal Guards show up at Yellow Bay the next day. So Shang Yung fights them all. During the fight, First Head notices the bracelet necklace and remembers where the kid came from, as bell bracelets were so rare back in the day.
First Head also has a giant drum with him. He drums and the Royal Guards jump to the Tien Lo Set Array pattern. Instead of just kicking knees and ruining the array, Shang Yung just beats everyone up. Hsiao Yun is also spying on this battle, she runs interference banging her own drum, mischievously disrupting all the furious drum beating First Head is doing. Thus the Royal Guards start jumping in and out of Array formation and doing complicated maneuvers. So just imagine if Animal from the Muppets had his drum set, we’d have Royal Guard dudes hopping up to the moon or something!
She disrupts enough that Shang Yung just ups and leaves! What, is he a judge on So You Think You Can Dance? who is insulted with the complicated choreography going awry? First Head is ticked off that he looked like a chump who can’t even get the beginning drum solo on Wipeout correct, and Hsiao Yun leaves behind a necklace, thus alerting the bad guys that she disrupted them. Way to leave such an obvious clue, Hsiao Yun!
Hsiao Yun goes to see Shang Yung that night and reveals that Tin Erh Keng is not only her adoptive father but also her enemy. Her father was Tso Kuang Tou, who was insultingly killed by Tin Erh Keng and her mom then suicided. Her Uncle Sze Ma Kang realizes the only way she will get good enough with kung fu for revenge is to learn from Tin Erh Keng himself, so he plots to attack Tin Erh Keng and have Hsiao Yun save him and thus get adopted. Also uncle took suicide pills so he will die anyway. Makes sense, I can find none of the dozens of gaping holes in this plan.
Hsiao Yun won’t let Shang Yung kill Tin Erh Keng, because she wants to! You know you are doing something wrong (or right!) if you got a waiting list of people wanting to kill you. Hsiao Yun tells Shang Yung where First Head practices kung fu every morning. Shang Yung meets him there to kill him, and over a long battle does just that.
Tin Erh Keng is mad all of his lieutenants are dead, and sets a huge reward on Shang Yung’s head. He also confronts Hsiao Yun, who eventually attacks her adoptive father and reveals her real name is Tso Yun Lan. The fight spills to the courtyard where Shang Yung is hiding, he observes. She then escapes with his help.
The guards send the Tien Lo Set and Tien Lo Net squads after them. The pair fight the array. Fight and fight the array. Then Hsiao Yun starts flying up and hitting the top row of dudes. That works, I guess. At this point the guards switch to Tien Lo Net and pull out a giant net, but the pair instead uses the net to catch all the guards. The Tien Lo D’oh! attack! The Tien Lo crew is defeated, so it is now time to fight Tin Erh Keng.
Luckily for quick movie fans, Tin Erh Keng just happens to be right there with four bodyguards, who attack. The bodyguards are quickly beat, so now both heroes fight Tin Erh Keng for the final battle. The final battle is pretty long, because all final battles are. We know Tin Erh Keng gets serious when he finally takes off his cape and hat. After several more brutal minutes, Hsiao Yun pulls out a knife she had stashed on her and stabs Tin Erh Keng in the arm. Said arm gets lopped off soon after, and he is also stabbed in the belly and chest.
Did you know if you are stabbed in the chest you do an arcing forward flip ten feet in the air? And you also don’t bleed at all from a severed arm? Now you do.
Tin Erh Keng finally dies, but as Shang Yung and Hsiao Yun are beat to crap, they will be needing ice packs for a while. And the movie instantly ends because that was the style at the time. If you don’t believe me, check out any of our other reviews of older kung fu films and you will find variations of me making the same joke about how these movies just abruptly end. At least this one had the decency to wait until the bad guy died to put up “The End”, sometimes they jump the gun and throw up “The End” before the fatal blow is even struck.
Rated 6/10 (survivor child, funky monk, evil dude, magic in a bottle, another evil dude, gave him a hand…)
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