Originally made as The Desperate Prodigal in 1981 and representing actor Tien Peng's (The Melody Of Love, The Ghost Hill, The Windows Of The Mind) 4th movie as director, IFD picked up the movie for international distribution without any alterations made to the extent where they inserted Western actors into the plot (cut and paste practice started with Mission Thunderbolt and would increase in frequency once the ninja-craze was something IFD wanted a piece of). Crediting as per usual the actor/director as Roc Tien and his co-star Wong Goon-Hung as Champ Wang and giving it the arguably sexier title Equals Against Devils, setting your rather tame actioner in the high class world of pool doesn't sound sexy. You would be right in assuming so yet Tien Peng makes a tolerable exercise in mostly bland celluloid. May have something to do with the original or reduced running time of 73 minutes.
Alan (Tien Peng) is skilled at pool and enjoys making cash with his friends as they are not destined to excel in the job market anyway. Hired by Mr. Ko (Chan Sing) to defeat rival White Cloud (O Chun-Hung), walking alongside Alan and his newly found fame is once crippled but now equipped with a bionic arm Sinner (Wong Goon-Hung)...
Setting aside budget, it doesn't seem like hands on filmmaker both behind and in front of the camera Tien Peng is aiming for danger and even when you think henchmen are going to contradict that fact, mostly we get cross eyed goofballs and comedic schtick to support that theory. Thankfully moving fast through these awfully dopey inclusions and not saying anything in particular with his story here, it's a standard template of revenge deep within with some loonies spread throughout.
Promising some grit through the flashback of Wong Goon-Hung losing his arm and shooting a clever transition we THINK is the arm chop but is a piece of meat outside of the flashback, the pool world is also pretty high class with media, marching bands and playboy bunnies. Leading up to a final confrontation which turns out to be a ridiculous skill shots competition and by this point within a 73 minute frame, Tien Peng kind of has us in his pocket as we know it's a short investment anyway.
By the end though, Tien does go dark on us when gangsters show their ruthless sides to not only the games of pool and we get a few minutes of No More Mr. Pool Cue aura to the film that showcases tension and violence quite well which makes me curious if he had the chops to execute (and execute his characters) throughout an entire movie. For Equals Against Devils, Tien Peng isn't adhering too much of Taiwanese cinema trend but perhaps that makes his short time at the pool table a minor standout. It definitely doesn't offend and admittedly even delights with its low's and high's.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson