The Victim


Since making his directorial debut in 1977 with Iron Fisted Monk, Sammo Hung had been on an amazing hot streak of films – Enter the Fat Dragon (1978), Warriors Two (1978), Knockabout (1979) – and his first film of the new decade The Victim (1980) continued this success. Sammo’s fame and popularity was of course to explode in the 1980’s – but these early directorial efforts of his displayed his wonderful flair for mixing stunningly choreographed action scenes and broad humor. To some degree, they also displayed the dark side that Sammo sometimes brought into his films.
Sammo Hung and Leung Kar-yan
The Victim is pure entertainment – it is like taking a big blue entertainment pill – and allowing it to make you totally giddy with delight. Don’t look for deep meaning here – simply allow yourself to marvel at what takes place. If Fred Astaire had been a kung fu actor rather than a hoofer – this might have been the film he made. The choreography is deliciously intricate and clever – the timing of the actors involved has to be perfect and graceful and it is. Not only is the action remarkable – there is loads of it – one brilliant fight nips on the heels of the next.
Chung Fat, Karl Maka and ? -  anyone know his name?
And you want variety? Every fight here has a different feel to it – utilizing different styles, different weapons or various configurations of fighters. Some of it is done with sly humor while some of it is deadly serious. Throughout the film there are elements of comedy mixed in – perhaps it is less than sophisticated but you can’t help but being caught up in the spirit of it. This film was shown at an Old School Kung Fu Festival that we put on and people came out afterwards with grins a foot wide pasted on their faces. Many of the attendees were more familiar with Sammo from his TV show Martial Law – and were absolutely shocked and delighted at what this rotund man was capable of when he was younger - but not much more svelte!
Fanny Wang, Chang Yi and Leung
The film begins with Sammo. He is desperately looking for a sifu to continue his training – a promise he made to his dead father – but there is one catch – the person has to be able to beat him in a fair fight. So he enters a small provincial town with a big goofy smile and an even bigger kick and looks for challenges – in hopes of being beaten by someone. First up to bat is the sneering Chung Fat who Sammo handles easily – but Sammo perks up when Chung tells him that his sifu can give Sammo a whacking that he won’t soon forget. Sammo is thrilled by this news – but after a bout of spears, poles and other weapons the sifu lies bruised and dishevelled on the ground – but he too has a sifu! In a long procession of Shaolin monks, the sifu arrives in the person of Karl Maka – well disguised beneath a long white beard. In a game of “you get one punch – then I get one punch” – Maka is soon writhing and gasping in pain. Poor Sammo – where will he find a sifu?
Sammo showing the bod - Leung and Chan Lung
His sifu comes in the lean trim form of Leung Kar-yan who Sammo spots saving a blind man from being run down by a carriage. Let me just stop the narrative for a second and heap praises on Leung. He is simply brilliant in this film and gives a performance (both action and acting) that you won’t forget – the fact that he actually had no formal martial arts training makes it even more astonishing. His good humor and charisma dominate this film  -and it is to Sammo's credit that he would allow another actor to upstage him. I read in one magazine that Sammo had intended his own role for Jackie Chan - but the studio wanted to go with Sammo.
Of course, Leung wants nothing to do with this lumpish grinning fool – but Sammo won’t give up – even after getting beaten down on numerous occasions – this just makes him more determined. Sammo follows Leung everywhere  - even into a male sauna that turns into a hilarious towel snapping, penis flicking fight. It turns out that Leung has problems of his own. He and his wife (Fanny Wang) are hiding from Leung’s jealous foster brother – the evil Chang Yi – and his brother-in-law, Chan Lung. Chang Yi had attempted to rape Fanny on their wedding night – and Leung had to fight their way out with Fanny draped on his back. He had promised his foster father that he would never hurt his brother – and so to keep the promise he has to hide.
Of course, he is tracked down and must eventually face his brother with Sammo tagging along. Most of the first hour of the film is extremely light – but it takes a sudden turn into the bleak darkness that will quite take you by surprise. The fighting becomes deadlier and more brutal as they progress – Chang Yi even brings in a professional killer – Wilson Tong to take on Leung. You practically hold your breath for the last thirty minutes of the film as fight after fight bleeds across the screen. This is simply a terrific film.
Chang Yi, Leung, Sammo and father (?)
A vcd of The Victim has been released by Ocean Shores but it has no English sub-titles and is not letterboxed.

My rating for this film: 8.5