Sub-par kung fu film with some bizarre, imaginative touches
72 DESPERATE REBELS is not terribly well-plotted or edited, nor is the kung fu what it should be in a film of this type, but it does have a certain visual flair and enough fight scenes to keep fans interested if not always seriously engaged. The plot has to do with a trio of heroes (two men, one woman) who take it upon themselves to try and bring down a powerful outlaw named Po Ho Nin (Pai Ying) who has an army of 72 killers and warriors whose combined skills have wreaked havoc throughout the region. The heroes are joined at one point by a blind swordsman (Lung Fei) who teaches them to 'fight in blindness' and, later, by a notorious swordsman who, they hope, can lead them to victory. At one point the heroes have to fight in different chambers set up by the bad guys, including the Tiger, Leopard, Crane and Phoenix chambers. In the latter, they are assaulted by hundreds of bells being rung overhead or thrown at them by women fighters.
The villain's personal bodyguards include a midget and a giant. The giant (played by Siu Kam) has the same glandular condition as seven-foot-two actor Richard Kiel and sports a row of gold teeth, recalling Kiel's role as the steel-toothed 'Jaws' in a pair of James Bond films. The giant bites on opponents' swords and breaks them with his teeth. The running joke is that, like Jaws in the Bond films, every time he's left for dead, he always rises up in the next scene to continue the battle.
The stars are not terribly charismatic. The female fighters are not memorable and not particularly skilled, although they are attractive. The only name actors in the cast are Tien Peng as one of the heroes; Pai Ying as villain Po Ho Nin; Lung Fei as the Blind Swordsman; Tsai Hung as one of the lead villains; and Chen Sing in one short fight scene as one of Po's warriors.
The plot is somewhat incoherent, the actors not at their the best, the English dubbing awkward, and the kung fu too reliant on gimmickry, such as incredibly high leaps up great distances. However, there is a certain amount of imagination on display and the giant is quite a novelty.
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