MY REBELLIOUS SON Kung fu comedy of East vs. West
MY REBELLIOUS SON (1982) is a Shaw Bros.-produced kung fu comedy-drama with a father-and-son theme similar to that of the Wong Fei Hung movies of the later '70s (e.g. CHALLENGE OF THE MASTERS and DRUNKEN MASTER). Here Chang Siu Tai (Alexander Fu Sheng) is the son of Master Chang (played by Ku Feng), a renowned chiropractor/bone-setter operating a clinic in a poor neighborhood in an unidentified city in early 20th century China. Siu Tai works for his father and studies bone-setting and kung fu under him, but gets into lots of trouble, especially after white foreigners and their westernized Chinese enablers descend on the town in hopes of acquiring a valuable statue of the Goddess of Mercy on display at a local Buddhist temple. Their attempt to take the statue incurs the wrath of the villagers, led by Master Chang, and a matter of cultural collision escalates into a greater conflict. In its treatment of traditional-vs.-westernized Chinese, the film looks forward to Tsui Hark's ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA films in the 1990s, in which Jet Li played an adult Wong Fei Hung.
During the course of the action, Siu Tai is called on to fight several foreign fighters, including boxers, a fencer, and a group of Japanese swordsmen. The first bout, in an outdoor ring, against a large, bald western boxer is particularly well-staged as the boxer gives a good account of himself against Siu Tai's kung fu even if he ultimately loses. Siu Tai gets most flustered, however, by the attentions of a western-educated Chinese girl named Judy (Huang Hsing-hsiu), who is grateful to him for fixing her leg bone after she'd fallen off a horse. He laments that she's so "different" from him. Later, he is pressured to dance with her at a western-style ball and he proceeds to turn it into a test of his physical prowess against the other dancers, in a scene that's very clever and much more interesting cinematically than some of the kung fu fights.
Between fending off Judy, fighting the foreigners, and trying to foil a plot to steal the statue, Siu Tai has his hands full. Things come to a head when the statue disappears and Master Chang and his crew confront the local boss, Chairman Tang, who's sponsoring the westerners' visit, and make accusations. The westernized Chinese and their varied champions are eager for a fight and it all culminates in a series of clashes in the film's final 20 minutes, beginning with an ambush of Siu Tai by the Japanese swordsmen, which leaves him severely wounded. However, things take an unconvincing turn as Siu Tai recoversmuch too quickly--and takes on a boxer, a fencer, a kung fu fighter, and the leader of the swordsmen in a series of bouts that are all run through way too easily. There's a rushed feel to the final stretch and the more interesting elements of cultural conflict that had been developed earlier are glossed over, reduced to quick demonstrations of the superiority of Chinese martial arts, without any sense of the true capabilities of the opposing fight forms.
Star Fu Sheng is looser and funnier here than usual and it's a pleasure to watch this versatile actor and great kung fu star in a seriocomic role. The rest of the cast includes kung fu great Wang Lung Wei as the only one among the westernized Chinese to do any real fighting. He takes on both Ku Feng and Fu Sheng in two separate bouts. The lead actress, Huang Hsing-hsiu (aka Wong Hang-Sau), had fighting roles in SHAOLIN MANTIS (1978) and THE MAGNIFICENT KICK (1980), but she doesn't get to fight here and has to content herself with looking awesome in western fashions. Many familiar faces are on hand, including Tang Ching (INTERPOL) as Chairman Tang; Chan Wai Man (THE PROUD YOUTH) as the leader of the samurai; Tien Ching (THE WATER MARGIN) in a typically unctuous role as the foreigners' Chinese rep; Lam Fai Wong (THE BRAVE ARCHER) as another bullying westernized Chinese; and Hong Kong screen veteran Walter Cho Tat Wah (the original BUDDHA'S PALM) as an ally of Master Chang's. The director is Sun Chung, who also directed Fu Sheng in THE AVENGING EAGLE and THE DEADLY BREAKING SWORD.
The names of the western fighters who appear in the film, as given in the end credits, are: Randy Channel, John Ladalski, Mimmo Gasbarri, Mike Louatte, and Ronnie Madar.
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