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In Canton, the master of a kung fu school dies and his seemingly lazy and undeserving son, Fei-hong, inherits. In the British commercial sector, an opium den opens with the bribed approval of the city's weak mayor. A merciless Japanese swordsman is challenging and killing the best fighters from every kung fu school. Fei-hong, who has fallen in love with the foreign swordsman's sister, must rid the city of the opium den, face down the hired guns of the British, establish his moral and physical authority to run the school, and meet his lover's brother in a dual. Written by
MARTIAL ARTS MASTER WONG FEI HUG (1992) is a competent retelling of the story of legendary martial artist-herbalist Wong Fei Hung, who was treated somewhat more fancifully in Tsui Hark's ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA series. Chin Kar Lok (BURY ME HIGH, OPERATION SCORPIO) plays Wong Fei Hung as a young man who matures almost overnight when, upon the death of his father, he ascends to the leadership of Po Chi Lam, his father's martial arts school. When the nephew of the local Mayor of Canton colludes with the British consul in opening an opium salon, Wong breaks up the operation, incurring the wrath of both the British and the Mayor.
A subplot involves a vicious Japanese swordsman who is going around killing top Chinese martial artists in duels to prove his mastery of martial arts. He had once been a student of Fei Hung's father, Wong Kei Ying, and he comes to Canton to challenge the father only to find he is dead, so he challenges the son, Fei Hung. Meanwhile, the Japanese swordsman's sister meets and falls in love with Fei Hung. The Japanese guy aids Fei Hung when the British set a trap for him, but it's all so Fei Hung can show up in one piece for their scheduled duel.
The film is beautifully if simply shot on location in some historic district (most likely in Taiwan, since it doesn't resemble the usual Hong Kong locations). The fights are well staged and fun to watch, although played at a lower pitch than the similarly themed ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA. The fights use a lot of wire work, but are still not as gimmicky as OUATIC. (Both "Asian Cult Cinema" and "The Essential Guide to Hong Kong Films" assert that Chin Kar Lok didn't need wires, yet the actor does perform a lot of wire-enhanced stunts in the film.)
Lam Ching Ying (MR. VAMPIRE) plays the Japanese swordsman, while his sister is played by Ng Man Suet. Both characters speak almost perfectly lip-synced Cantonese. The British Consul, Mr. Smith, speaks Cantonese too. At one point, British soldiers surround Wong Fei Hung and speak heavily Chinese-accented English to him.
The ending of the 90-minute film is too abrupt. One whole plotline remains unresolved and one major battle is missing. The British and their Chinese lackeys-the Mayor's nephew and his henchmen-are never dealt with. Still, it's a good entry in the Wong fei Hung series which some fans may consider a welcome relief from the high-pitched, hyper-stylized tone of the far more spectacular ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA series.
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