This Hong Kong martial-arts extravaganza tells of evil emperors and true love. The secret Red Lotus Flower Society is committed to the overthrow of the evil Manchu Emperor and his minions. ...
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This Hong Kong martial-arts extravaganza tells of evil emperors and true love. The secret Red Lotus Flower Society is committed to the overthrow of the evil Manchu Emperor and his minions. One of his Governors is sent on a mission to retrieve a list of members of that secret society. Meanwhile, Canton kung fu practitioner Fong Sai-Yuk falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a rich merchant, recently moved to Canton. Her father, in an attempt to gain influence in the region and thus improve his business, offers his daughter in marriage to the winner of a kung-fu contest. Some interesting gender role-reversals take place during a 'comedy of errors.'Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
In the original Hong Kong cut, the final scene has Tiger throwing the Red Flower scroll into the air where it unfurls. The closing credits then roll down a parchment labeled "Red Flower Society Name List", as if the entire cast and crew were members of it. See more »
UK version was cut by 1 sec. for sight of real animal cruelty (horse tripped so that it falls forward onto head) due to BBFC policy and the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937. See more »
A wonderfully funny film with a busy plot and great action scenes only genre weaknesses hurt it a little bit
The Fong family live under the rule of a land-grabbing Governor who is keen to be liked by the people despite being challenged by an underground movement for Chinese freedom called the Red Lotus Flower Society. When the Governor offers the hand of his daughter to the man who can defeat his wife in combat, Sai-Yuk Fong enters, only losing the fight on purpose when he spots who he thinks is the daughter. His mother enters (dressed as a man and passing herself as Sai-Yuk's brother) in order to win and, in doing so, accidentally wins the heart of the Governor's wife. With the Fong's already in trouble for this imaginary brother turning down the daughter's hand, things get worse when the Emperor comes to town to expose and destroy the members of the Red Lotus a group that Father Fong is a key member of.
As the plot summary suggests, this is a very busy little film with a plot that is very simple but at the same time filled with lots of little things going on. In a way this is a problem because many of these things are by the by and only serve to fill a movie who's basic plot is 'Fong fights with bad Emperor', but here it doesn't matter so much because this patchwork of little events fit well into this basic frame of a story and make the film enjoyable. Each little bit works well to create a film that is actually fun to watch. The script throws up plenty of well written lines not jokes, but actions and dialogue that is witty and fun to listen to. I was caught up in the light tone it had for the most part and really enjoyed it; only in the final quarter does the tone turn harder and it is done a bit too suddenly for the film's own good damaging the sense of fun it had garnered up until then. Aside from this, the overall plot is nothing more than a frame and I can understand why some viewers would be bothered by both the lack of firm foundations as well as the comic tone.
For me though, the comic tone was a big reason I loved it just like I felt it made Once Upon a Time in China 3 so much fun to watch. With physical action, the humour could have been lazy slapstick but it wasn't; instead it is witty dialogue woven into the story through funny characters. The physical work is good too just not for comedy though. The fights are impressive and make good use of the actors' skills as well as effective wirework. Much is made of the fights in trees of Crouching Tiger, or the lake fight of Hero but, while these look beautiful, it is a lot more fun to see the fight here that occurs on top of a crowd of people! There is no one fight that stands out as a really great one (indeed the climatic fight is probably the least of the film) but generally they are all of a high standard and are great fun to watch. Li is a great martial artist and he makes it all seem so natural and easy; he also shows that he is a leading man of great charisma and presence something that the swaggering 'gangbanger' movies he has made in the US have not allowed him to show. He is likable, serious, fun and charming and this film shows why (along with the physical skills) he has become such a star. Siao is just as good and is very funny, even with her 'romance' is just filler. Chu is solid as Father Fong, the Governor is an enjoyable clown even if the Emperor lacks real menace. Performances were hard to judge for me as I saw the dubbed version, but the dubbing is not that bad and, while not great actors, the voice talent (as the credits call them) all do well to capture the tone and style of their characters certainly the dubbing fits with the jocular tone of the majority of the film.
Overall this is a really fun film. Admittedly not a really great film but certainly one that I will enjoy watching several times again. The script is funny and witty for the most part and the serious turn doesn't do too much to detract from this. The fights are good and the plot is busy and lively, even if some of it is just filler and the actual narrative flow is not all it really could have been. With Jet Li back in people's minds recently, now is as good a time as any to revisit this film and enjoy it for what it is a well written and fun film that doesn't take itself too seriously.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful.
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