HBO is known for many things. Exceptional movies is definitely one of them. However, as successful as they are in choosing the best, they don’t always get it right. Oddly enough, even when HBO doesn’t quite get it right, they don’t really fail either. I recently watched two HBO Asia Original martial arts TV movies, Master Of The Drunken Fist: Beggar So and Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying. If the stakes are winner takes all, I call a draw.
Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So
Master Of The Drunken Fist: Beggar So follows a military official’s fall to poverty and his rise against the man that caused him to loose everything. What was once his curse turned out to be a blessing when the beggars sect rescued him and taught him an ancient form of martial arts. This would be his weapon of redemption.
Sounds like a great plot, right? That’s because it is. However, it was completely wasted. Before I start, let me say, I am avid fan of classic Kung Fu movies with the exaggerated acting and loose plots.
Its entertainment gold… but this is 2017. There is no reason characters cannot be created with more depth and reality, especially when its the main character. The unfortunate thing is that such a useless character was wasted in such a beautifully filmed movie.
That is not to say that the acting wasn’t good. Jun Cao as So Chan was actually not half bad. It was the way the hero felt so weak against opposition even after overcoming his trials and tribulations. I became so frustrated at how lacking of common sense he was.
The fight scenes were also a source of disappointment. Aside from being too few action scenes, the Drunken Fist fight choreography wasn’t demonstrated enough. Drunken Fist can be really enjoyable to watch because of the comedic factor as well as the intensity. These scenes lacked both. I was not that impressed with Drunken Fist simply because Beggar So was unimpressive. Yet, I would still watch it again just for the fun of complaining about it.
Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying
Though I was a bit disappointed before (okay, maybe more than a bit), I felt instantly rewarded after watching Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying. Now this was a much better movie in terms of story, plot and character development. Not only were the characters intelligent, they were also as heroic as we expect them to be.
In addition, the plot was complex and interesting. In Shadowless Kick, Wong Kei-Ying, played by Sun Hao Ran, is a talented doctor with a heart for the people. When the new governor deceives him and forces the people into desperation, Wong Kei -Ying must master a martial arts style called Shadowless Kick to overthrow him and save them all.
Just like Drunken Fist, Shadowless Kick is set in a time in history where corrupt government and military officials ran the world. Their only opposition were every day heroes like Wong Kei-Ying. Wong Kei Ying faced down the bad guys with a stern face and a heavy hand. Yet he was still compassionate to the weak. Sun Hao Ran was a very convincing champion as he was nimble and precise during action performances and passionate in emotional scenes.
The final scene deserved a lot more screen time. I was still satisfied since there had been plenty action all through the movie. Aside from Sun Hao Ran’s performance, Zhi Hui Chen was fantastic. He was both a persuasive and deadly antagonist. His role was the most fascinating to me since I had almost missed the connection to the lead character.
Both movies were directed by Jian Yong Guo with the fight choreography directed by Corey Yuen. Though I did enjoy Shadowless Kick more than Drunken Fist, I won’t claim either to be bad or great.
They fall somewhere in the middle for me. Being that they are offered On Demand and easily accessible, its worth checking them out. However, I’m giving fair warning not to expect to become engrossed into the stories or so impressed that you find yourself shadow fighting in the kitchen after watching. Just grab a cold one (beer, soda, sandwhich…whatever) and enjoy watching a Kung Fu movie.