“Eastern Condors” is considered one of Sammo Hung’s best work and for good reason, since both him (he lost 30 pounds to play the part) and Yuen Biao are in top form, and the script is at least partially logical.
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The story, whichseems to loan much from “The Dirty Dozen”, “Rambo” and even “The Deer Hunter”, revolves around a group of Chinese and Chinese-Vietnamese convict soldiers who are enlisted by Lieutenant Colonel Lam to enter Vietnam and destroy an old American bunker filled with missiles, before the Viet Cong can get to them, in exchange for a pardon and $200,000. Their objective, however, is not what it seems initially, and after a sudden change of orders, they find themselves lost in enemy territory, having to face VC patrols as they try to escape. Eventually, they stumble upon three female guerillas who help them seek refuge in a small town. There they meet Weasel, a treasure hunter and his mentally ill “Uncle” Yeung and all together, through many tribulations, become a team. However, traitors seem to lurk everywhere.
There are four elements that make “Eastern Condors” stand out in Sammo Hung’s vast filmography. The first one is the setting, with the aftermath of the Vietnam War giving a great base to implement all the action that features in the film. The second is that the action now includes weapons and not just martial arts, making this aspect more diverse and as a result, more intriguing. Third, the fact that finally the comedy has been pushed back in favor of drama, particularly regarding the many deaths of protagonists, adds much to the context of the film. Lastly, the many treacheries and switching of allegiances that take place during the story are at least partially justified, and equally intriguing, thus retaining the interest for the majority of the non-action parts. All of the aforementioned also benefit much by the excellent editing of Peter Cheung, who connects the various scenes with artistry, inducing the movie with a rather fast speed that suits its aesthetics to perfection.
Regarding the action, I can easily say that is top notch, headed by the excellent work of Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Lam Ching Ying’s (three more credits are listed in this part) work in the choreography department, and also its implementation. Hung in particular, seems to have benefitted much by the loss of weight, as he appears faster and more agile than ever, while Yuen Biao is also in top form. The female actors, and particularly Joyce Mina Godenzi also do a great job in that department, with their fights adding much to the brutal/exploitation element that also plays a key role in the narrative, particularly in the enemy camp and the last sequences. Lastly, the presence of Yuen Woo Ping as Grandpa Yun Yen-hoy, and Dick Wei and Yasuaki Kurata in the roles of the main adversaries definitely adds to the quality of both cast and the action.
Au Gaam Hung and Arthur Wong’s cinematography makes great use of the jungle setting (the film was shot in the Philippines mostly) to service the action, but also to present a number of scenes of beauty.
Not much more to say, “Eastern Condors” is a masterpiece of the Hong Kong action/martial arts scenes, one of the best movies of Sammo Hung, and a definite must-see of all fans of the category.