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.
Sammos fame and popularity was of course to explode in the 1980s 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.
The Victim is pure entertainment it is like
taking a big blue entertainment pill and allowing it to make you totally
giddy with delight. Dont 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.
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 cant 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
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 wont 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?
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 wont 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
Of course, Leung wants nothing to do with this
lumpish grinning fool but Sammo wont 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 Leungs
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.
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