A Heroic Fight (1986)

Written & directed by: Chiu Chung-Hing
Producer: Hsu Li-Hwa
Starring: Lin Shao-Luo, Dick Wei, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Lee Kwok-Sau, Lam Kai-Man & Gam Dai

A family of inventors, stunt people and special effect wizards (led by Yuen Cheung-Yan and his silly buckteeth) get drawn into the world of gangster rivalry. Retired boss Duh (Lee Kwok-Sau) refuses to go back into the game dealing drugs so Gam Dai's character sends goons after his grand daughter (Ting Ting). Because he kidnapping doesn't go as planned since the daughter of the family (Lin Shao-Luo) intervenes through her BMX bike skills and its gadgetry, Duh sees an out of his predicament by staging his own death at a banquet using the creativity of the family. The movie then plays the traitor card (did you think Dick Wei was really going to be a good guy?) and now bodies start piling up for real.

A busy stretch of directing, writing and action-directing continues for Chiu Chung-Hing (action choreographer on The Child Of Peach), this time blending Taiwan and Hong Kong in the form of Yuen Cheung-Yan and Chiu himself had served as co-writer on the madness that was Yuen Woo-Ping's Shaolin Drunkard. If you aim to please, you generally should not bring your movie into the category of throwing everything against the wall and hoping it sticks. But if you’re GOOD at pleasing, you’ve earned a full canvas to toss your mad ideas at. The Yuen Clan knew, director Chiu Chung-Hing knew and all of the above were skilled at conveying it in combination with merely threadbare plotting. Who can argue against fun and physical creativity? Not the first time director Chiu has left that question hovering. And there’s no argument against it.

Granted, he's is now working the modern setting and seemingly CAN’T argue animated special effects in the vein of The Child of Peach has a place. But he puts the movie into high gear anyway by visually amping what we think we expect from a boardroom meeting between rival gangsters by planting henchmen looking like they stepped out of a village set rebellion and even period martial arts in the case of the leather clad fighter with a giant hook. The awareness of tropes as well as pace is evident as well as the ability of his action team to launch performers into fast and powerful fisticuffs. By also setting the plotting within the areas of filmmaking, Chiu has fun being self referential as Lin Shao-Luo steps onto the screen seemingly ready to dazzle with another Child of Peach-movie. But this is the performer she's playing and then we’re off and running depicting the family on- and off-set. A family of inventors, special effects knowhow and stunt-ethics, Chiu neatly sidesteps any Back To The Future rip-off by simply providing a strong hint the makers then have to execute themselves (even the send up of the restaurant shootout of A Better Tomorrow gets an amusing twist).

Which is the more noble approach and continuing further, we get then current 80s references such as Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ kindly stolen for this movie’s soundtrack, an 8 year old dolled just LIKE Madonna that is then hoisted way up in the air in a fashion that would have Hollywood rules and regulations representatives sweating bullets and the aim here is to maintain our attention while giving us as unusual, creative imagery as possible. Especially in regards to gadgets. The fine sense of energy applies to visual jokes as well therefore and although the movie has a body count, Chiu has decided to lean towards death and destruction being ever so slightly lighthearted and without consequence so bloody squibs and the likes do not FEEL like a massive, unsettling tone shift. Of course it IS but you can sense the director not wanting to lose a general, younger audience completely.

He doesn’t and especially not since traitorous Dick Wei, Lin Shao-Luo, Yuen Cheung-Yan and the likes engage in albeit undercranked but entertaining fight action too that’s fairly heavy on intricate choreography and painful stunts. It’s a live, shape shifting cartoon and not unlike the madness Chu Yen-Ping in his heyday was able to conjure up. At one point Yuen Cheung-Yan says stunts and special effects is the art of making something out of nothing. A Heroic Fight is a fun meeting of creative minds that feel very confident about populating the movie with many ideas that came from nothing and became execution. Including the one where plot is secondary and ideas are priority. Because they are good ideas.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson