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A Chinese opera performer and Monkey Fist expert finds himself wrongly accused of sexual misconduct and crippled as punishment in a plot to force his sister to marry a brothel owner. He befriends a petty thief and reluctantly trains the young man in kung fu. Together they seek justice.

Monkey Fist kung fu has appeared in a number of films but never shown as more entertaining or as masterfully executed as in Mad Monkey Kung Fu. Not only has that, but ample humor and top notch choreography make this film a joy to behold. Director, choreographer, and leading man Lau Kar-leung, also the leading master of the genre, is at the peek of his creative prowess here.

A Chinese opera performer named Chan (Lau Kar-leung) finds his life ruined overnight. In order to gain possession of Chan’s sister (Kara Hui), brothel owners Duan (Lo Lieh) and his wife make it appear that Chan has made sexual advances on Duan’s wife. To spare him, Miss Chan becomes Duan’s concubine and Chan’s hands are crippled. Several years later Chan meets a petty thief named Little Monkey (Hsiao Ho) who ends up learning Chan’s Monkey Fist in order to defend himself from local gang members. When its discovered that the gang works for Duan, Chan joins Little Monkey in seeking revenge on Duan and saving his sister.

Within director Lau Kar-Leung’s many films, he has always striven to retain the traditions of kung fu by portraying the styles in an authentic fashion. Mad Monkey Kung Fu features meticulously choreographed scenes depicting the unusual and dynamic style of Monkey Fist amid incredibly entertaining fight sequences. The real treat is seeing Lau Kar-leung in his first leading role. The man was already an established master of kung fu choreography behind the camera, but he proved himself capable of acting and fantastic kung fu displays to rival any of the performances provided by his star protégés. The opening fight is Lau’s opportunity to really show off his stuff. As he becomes increasingly drunk, his style becomes more fluid in contrast to his opponent’s “hard” styles.

Looking at Lau’s pupils and co-stars, Kara is impressive in a short match with Lo Lieh, but her role is short. The acrobatic Hsiao Ho, who never really took off as a leading man, still offers an incredible performance on par with Yuen Biao and Chiang Sheng. Later in the film, Hsiao delivers an outstanding performance as a character who naturally apes the movements and gestures of a monkey. His master is also well known for setting up complex fights involving large numbers of opponents and doesn’t disappoint here either. Hsiao’s two battles in the brothel are pure genius. It’s all fast-paced with props such as tables and nets being put to good use. While it’s nice to see Shaw Brothers veteran Lo Lieh going at it with Lau, this isn’t one of his better performances overall. His kung fu is no match for the rest of the leads, but he holds his own.

While having the standard revenge angle along with a few deaths, mangling of hands, and drama, the film is actually quite intentionally funny. Hsiao Ho sparkles as the mischievous thief who is constantly getting into trouble. The choreography is often playful, but always intense and intricate. The dialogue features a mom joke and other comic gems (best presented by the original English-dubbed version).

Old school kung fu fans should not miss out on seeing this film. With brilliant choreography and loads of humor, Mad Monkey Kung Fu is a genre classic with superb kung fu.

REVIEW: Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979), 7.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings Related Topics:
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