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DEADEND OF BESIEGERS - Above-average 1990s kung fu film
DEADEND OF BESIEGERS is an unsung 1992 kung fu film featuring two top stars of the new wave kung fu revival of the 1980s-90s, Yu Rong Guang (IRON MONKEY himself) and Cynthia Khan (IN THE LINE OF DUTY 3, 4 & 5), in strong roles, abetted by superb writing, expert action staging, spectacular photography and production design, and an excellent supporting cast. While there are some wire-enhanced stunts, this is more of a straight kung fu film along the lines of BLADE OF FURY and FIST OF LEGEND, rather than a "wire fu" spectacle like DRAGON INN, IRON MONKEY, TAI CHI MASTER, BUTTERFLY AND SWORD, or SWORDSMAN II.
The plot is quite original and deals with the case of a Japanese martial artist, Wuwechimato (played by Yu Rong Guang), who journeys to China to learn Chinese kung fu but finds himself on board a boat filled with Japanese pirates whose only mission is plunder and pillage. When he intervenes on behalf of an adolescent Chinese girl about to be kidnapped, he is targeted by the pirates while also assumed by the Chinese villagers to be one of the pirates. Only when the girl hides him and teaches him some of her language, does he manage to convince other important villagers of his innocence. However, it's a long, grueling road to get there and he suffers much abuse and punishment along the way, even getting nailed shut into a coffin at one point. But he also gets to learn Dog Fist style kung fu from Cynthia Khan, as the girl's older sister, Cui Gu. At some point he is even permitted to train at Shaolin Temple.
Eventually, the Japanese pirates return with the secret help of a Chinese traitor in the walled city where the villagers have taken refuge, setting the stage for a rousing final battle. There are many fights throughout the film, all staged amidst picturesque locations and settings in Mainland China, including a towering, multi-storied hilltop temple which the pirates have taken over as their hiding place. Both stars are in extremely fine form here and fight each other several times before teaming up against their Japanese opponents. This film easily ranks among the best work of each performer. Cynthia, in particular, is beautifully costumed and made-up throughout but also gets to participate in the action almost as much as her co-star, who is also credited as co-director of the fight scenes.
But what gives the film its charm and emotional pull is the relationship between the spunky young girl, Mao Tou, and Wuwechimato. She has to keep him hidden, fed and cared for, and has to pull off a ruse in which he masquerades as her crazy uncle to disguise the fact that he can't speak the villagers' language. The two have many scenes together in which they try to communicate and she ultimately manages (in suspiciously short order) to teach him enough of her language to keep him up to speed. A piece of text displayed at the very end asserts that Wuwechimato went back to Japan and invented karate.
The Japanese-speaking characters, including Wuwechimato, speak in Japanese. The villagers speak Cantonese or Mandarin, depending on which language track one chooses on the DVD. Wuwechimato has a flashback to a scene in Japan in which he was beaten up on the street by a European fighter (Dale Cook) who speaks English to him. The DVD also has an English dub track. The Cantonese track is preferred because the Cantonese voice performers are more expressive, particularly the voice of the endearing Mao Tou.
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