Well Directed Old Fashioned Kung Fu Action and Drama
Cheng Gang (or Nang) is on of the Shaw directors who are mostly unknown outside of China. A maker of films mostly before the Bruce Lee craze introduced a market for HK action, Cheng Gang is one of the more refined directors at Shaw. With a good eye for image and editing, his films are very well produced and stand above some of his more well known compatriots in some ways.
This film follows Instructor Lin who is home from training the imperial troops for several years. He is a kind and honorable person to a fault. He meets his wife and runs into his brother who has become a monk at the local temple. His superior Lord Gao, the son of the Imperial Commissioner, strangely decides to rape Lin's wife in the temple but Lin interrupts the crime. His brother, the monk, is enraged and tries to kill Gao but Lin stops him with the help of Lin's training brother and old friend Lu who works for Gao. Lin is loyal to the Commissioner and will not do anything to harm his son. Once back at the Commissioner's house, Gao and Lu hatch a plan to discredit and eventually kill Lin all with the Commissioner's approval. The plan is put into motion and Lin is unjustly arrested for trespassing on imperial property. Lin is tortured to confess but he refuses and is sent to the Royal Court in chains, beaten and tortured all the way by two of his students who have been paid off. Lin hopes that the Royal Court will hear his story of betrayal but it's not certain that he'll make it alive. Fortunately, the monk is not far behind and he is much more willing to kill corrupt officials.
A very cynical film where almost all the officials are corrupt and willing to do anything with the promise of money. There's an interesting commentary on ethics here. The character of Lin and the Monk are the only noble people besides the helpless wife and her family. The film is very well made with good pacing. The acting sometimes goes into traditional Chinese stage style but is good. The film is shot in a combo of real locations and some very obvious sets. The martial arts are well done but frequently also revert to stage style. Mostly Cheng Gang keeps the film moving and entertaining so that the occasional plots holes don't matter much. The repeated tortures might be hard to watch.
Very entertaining and good example of Shaw action from the early 1970's.
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