Magic Warriors (1989)

Directed by: Lee Tso-Nam & Chuang Yan-Chien
Written by:
Chung Cheng-Fai
Lee Tso-Nam
Lin Hsiao-Luo, Alexander Lo Rei, Chan Yin-Yu, Moi Cheung-Kwan, & Chen Shan

Heaven and hell are at war and Little Flying Dragon (Lin Hsiao-Luo) is asked to take care of a child called Golden Boy, who is the result of a union between the King Of Hell and one of the guardians of Heaven, Thundering Knight (Alexander Lo Rei). The child actually possesses a map that pinpoints the location of a magical weapon that can destroy the King Of Hell. So naturally he's a target of his freaky minions. On their mission, that also includes attempting to free Golden Boy's mother from the clutches of the King Of Hell, the pair dispatches weird baddies and being a kid, Golden Boy isn't above defending himself against attackers by pissing, farting and pooping on them. Yes, this Taiwanese film is for children.

Although starring Lin Hsiao-Luo and set in a fantasy realm that could thrust the viewer into heaven, hell and onto earth as well, she is not Peach Boy this time around (from The Child Of Peach and Magic Of Spell) but could've easily been judging by the children's friendly special effects experience at hand here. Co-helmed by kung fu veteran Lee Tso-Nam (The Hot, The Cool And The Vicious, A Life Of Ninja) and cinematographer turned director Chuang Yan-Chien (Revanchist, 21 Red List), Magic Warriors doesn't skimp on depicting this otherworldly setting full on. With a ton of imagination using wires and superimposed effects, it overcomes constantly faulty subtitles that frequently misspell gorilla (get used to the word corilla, folks). But to even have that transformation of Little Flying Dragon into the animal in the first place makes matters weird, winning and delightfully creative.

The directors have assembled a team of note here and they all get to show us what they got via the fight with the river ghost (or swamp thing really) that involves explosions, wires (how Lin Hsiao-Luo takes flight looks impressive in particular) and the opening in general also shows the makers are in command of how to make the powers within this world come to life technically and how you set pace through editing. Special mention also to the seamless transition from creature-form to humans or whatever being actors are supposed to be under costume- and make up. But the content of the opening alone isn't indicative of the entire roster of tricks though. Oh no.

The intense, rapid fire dialogue is a sign of plot thrust in actuality and the production maintains impressive design that makes us buy into the world. King Devil's lair is both dynamic as well as humorous as he phones in his messages via a glowing ball but it's part of what seems like endless creativity in the name of the tradition called having fun and pleasing. Because otherwise we wouldn't get the Message Fish or the belief that mixing the physical and post-production tools will create a present sense of powers. There's quotable energy, even when being very stupid. The red flag of plot complexity does pop up due to said, iffy translation but it's also easy to absorb the basics and the makers aren't going down the route of adding filler in the form of massively extended comedy either. In fact, when Little Flying Dragon and Golden Boy enter a town and therefore the realm of humans, Magic Warriors still feels alive and coherent despite using buffoonery like seeing Golden Boy literally drunk on power and various scenes of pee and poo and faces on the receiving end of it.

Alexander Lo Rei in dual roles brings that solid martial arts experience and weight and as part of the action directing team and the requisite ending in the big lair of King Devil is an all round combination of the fast, admirable, technical execution we've been trying to absorb for 90 minutes as best we can (the frenzy of it all demands a rewatch or five). Just because it's for children doesn't mean the technicians turned lazy. If anything entertainment for the little ones requires more effort than any traditional content they might've made before.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson