Starring: Billy Chong, Ying Bai, Hilda Liu and Feng Tien
Director: Chung Sun
Rating: Six of Ten Stars
An obnoxious young martial artist who enjoys tormenting Manchurians in the decade following the fall of the Ching Dynasty (Chong) becomes intrigued by a mysterious traveler (Bai) and decides to follow him. Along the way, he becomes engaged to and skips out on a young woman who raises eagles as a hobby (Liu), and becomes embroiled in a plot to restore the Ching Emperor to power.
"A Fistful of Talons" is a movie rushes headlong from fight scene to fight scene, hardly ever taking a break from slap-stick flavored confrontations to life-or-death battles with the future of China at stake. It's a film that I found surprisingly entertaining, given that I found the "hero" to be an obnoxious git.
This is a film that has all the strengths and weaknesses of the best Chinese martial arts movies from the late 1970s and early 1980s. On the plus side, the fights are peformed by real acrobats and martial artists with little or no use of wires and trick photography. On the downside, the film is a little incoherent in the area of plot, and, like so many other Chinese action movies of this period, it ends literally when the hero strikes the killing blow against the main villain. And if there ever was a movie that needed a denoument, this is the one.
Did Jerk Boy and the girl he promised to marry resolve their differences (and get married)? What happened with the Seal of the Emperor, a major maguffin throughout the film? Did Jerk Boy become a more serious participant in the Republician effort, or did he stick with harrassing random Manchurians? Moreso than in any other early 1980s martial arts film, I was left after the obligatory still-frame and "The End" title card wanting to know how the story ended. I wanted to know the answer to those questions and others. Because of that, the film teeters on the brink of a 7 rating, as it clearly drew me in, despite my dislike of the "hero". But because I don't get that ending, I'm keeping my rating on the low side.
If you like martial arts movies, be sure come back in November for Nine Days of the Ninja.