In medieval China, after surviving an ambush that slaughters his father and five of his brothers, a man seeks refuge in a monastery before exacting his revenge.
The opening ambush, set on an obvious soundstage, underwhelms. The sixth son, played by Alexander Fu, returns home insane. His performance comprises lots of wide-eyed shrieking, and insisting on pole-fighting anyone around him, including his mother. Rather than engender sympathy, the over-emoting elicited chuckles.
Stick with it.
The other surviving brother makes his way to a monastery. He demands to become a monk. When the abbot refuses, he threatens violence. Gordon Liu’s performance proves more nuanced than Fu’s but still involves lots of wide-eyed tears.
Things improve as Liu trains as a monk, culminating in a nice duel between him and the abbot. Nice, but not nice enough to justify the prior 80-minutes.
But then the finale happens. Not only does it include some impressive choreography involving several stacked coffins that double as platforms, but the battle between Fu and the legion of nameless baddies proves one of the most wince-inducing I’ve seen. I won’t spoil it, but the monks have a method for dealing with “wolves” that feels more visceral than punches, kicks, or blade slices.
- Arrow, 2022↩