Gordon Liu and a couple of con men in a lackluster kung fu comedy
FISTS AND GUTS (1980) is a vaguely comedic kung fu tale in the mode of such similar items as HE HAS NOTHING BUT KUNG FU, DIRTY HO, RETURN OF THE MASTER KILLER and MASTER OF DISASTER, all of which also starred Gordon Liu, as this film does, and two of which were also directed by Lau Kar Wing, brother of Lau Kar Leung (who directed the other two). However, FISTS AND GUTS isn't terribly funny and, despite four top-of-the-line kung fu performers, it's saddled with a plot that shrouds its main characters in such mystery that the viewer learns very little about them until the final scene. By that time, it's too late to supply the dramatic tension needed to make viewers care about what happens.
Gordon plays a mysterious traveler who enlists two hapless con men in a plan to get back what he claims are family heirlooms stolen by an errant housekeeper (Lo Lieh) operating in various disguises. The people he targets keep turning out to be the wrong ones. The con men (Lau Kar Wing and Lee Hoi San) are first seen participating in a ridiculously dangerous con game, in which Lau takes the place of a prisoner on death row and gets `killed' in their place, surviving the firing squad thanks to hidden metal sheets which block the bullets. He then collects money from the real inmate's family. How the real inmate gets out of the prison is never explained. None of this makes any sense. That the two grifters agree so readily to help Gordon in exchange for a cut of the treasure is increasingly hard to accept as Gordon keeps making mistakes and the venture proves increasingly unprofitable.
The final bout between Gordon and Lo Lieh includes a belated revelation of the actual cause of their dispute. Until then, the fight scenes are all somewhat gimmicky and more stunt- and prop-oriented than actual combat. The scenes would be much more clever if the characters made sense and the story had some urgency. Instead it all gets tiresome quickly. The poor English dubbing doesn't help. It's a poor use of four superb actor-fighters and an inadequate showcase of Lau's otherwise expert directing skills, as seen in HE HAS NOTHING BUT KUNG FU and ODD COUPLE.
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