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Great training scenes, average acting, bizarre plot twist and effects
"Knockabout" is the kung fu flick that gave legendary cinema acrobat Yuen Biao his first starring role. It was directed by and co-starred his Peking Opera School "brother", Sammo Hung, who despite his chunky frame was also astonishingly nimble.
The movie, if you ask me, really isn't that great. It's worth seeing for Biao's athleticism, particularly in the training sequences, of which "Knockabout" has more than average. The plot is strange, taking a really unexpected turn at the eleventh hour with a character going from the typical wise old man to an evil villain. It also has a really awkward mix of humour that leaves one unprepared for scenes in which we are led to believe the characters involved were killed.
Aside from the training bits, including an astonishing jump-rope sequence in which Yuen does backflips through the rope, it has one other unforgettable scene, due to it being unintentionally disturbing. Yuen and another actor fight a bald-headed henchman, and with each blow delivered to him, he gets a bright red bump on his head, as though this were a cartoon. Soon, his head is covered with red bumps. This leaves us with an absolutely appalling image. It looks like the man's head is infested with cysts or tumours. It is hard to look at it. Even thinking about it is making me nauseous.
Thankfully this only happens in one fight scene. The fight scenes in "Knockabout" aren't that great. They look so choreographed that it seems like the people involved aren't fighting, but dancing. It's so stiff and clearly rehearsed, though it does look dangerous.
I used to think this was one of Yuen's best. Rewatching it just now, I have changed my mind. The best is probably "The Prodigal Son".
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