“The Brave and the Evil can never exist together”
In his years with the Shaw Brothers Jimmy Wang Yu (director and action choreographer of this film) was largely responsible for popularizing and re-energizing the wuxia film and he is also credited in 1970 for starring in the first pure kung fu film with Chinese Boxer. Yet he never felt that he was being fairly compensated for his work and the box office that he brought in and so he broke his contract with the Shaw’s and began working with other production companies as well as setting up his own production house. The Brave and the Evil was one of the first films he worked on after leaving the Shaw Brothers and it is an interesting mix of both sword fighting and kung fu. It also has a certain Spaghetti Western influence weaving through it in particular in the musical motifs.
Hei’s Fortress is home to a large pack of cutthroat villains headed by Devil Whip Chao I-fu (another ex-Shaw leading man Paul Chang Chung). A premium is clearly placed on nasty sounding nicknames as his top henchmen are named Swift Sword Chieh-fei (Kenneth Tsang), Butcher Li-Erh-yu (Sit Hon) and Killer Liu Piao (Man Chung-san) and their perpetual snarls match their names. Word comes to them that a shipment of value is coming through their territory and is guarded by Hung Te-wei (Ma Chi), a well-known swordsman. They attack in full force and though loads of minions are killed they eventually murder Hung with the use of Chao’s tricky Devil Whip. Minions are clearly easily replaceable since no one ever seems too concerned with their demise. There must be a 1-800-minion line in which they can be ordered and by the end of this film they just about have to all be replaced.
The security man Hung had a daughter and not just any daughter but one with a temper as fast as her two-short-sword slices. Upon hearing about her father’s death and the culprits responsible, Tien Chao (Polly Shang-kwan) hops on a horse and rushes like a hellcat towards Hei’s Fortress for a little thing called vengeance. On the way she is seen by a lone wanderer, Iron Palm Pai (Jimmy Wang Yu) who is usually accompanied by a Marricone like theme wherever he goes. Not liking evil guys much, he decides to join her on her quest. After first killing much of a town of evildoers – one with a rather deadly sharp abacus – they set out for the main bad guys. The final 45 minutes of the film is made up of two large set pieces – one with Polly taking on zillions of them and then Wang Yu doing the same. Wang Yu’s final duel to the death with Chao is terrific – lasting as long as a slow kiss with Angelina Jolie it goes on to the point of exhaustion – one shot of the two in a waiting stationary position of attack with the sun coming up behind them is Kill Bill cool. The action choreography is an interesting mix – lots of swordplay involving Polly and the bad guys and then Wang Yu strictly using his deadly Iron Palm kung fu. Good stuff though fairly generic.
My rating for this film: 7.0