Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Original Title: The Man From Hong Kong
Year: 1975
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith, Jimmy Wang Yu
Writer: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Genre: Action

Special Agent Fang Sing Leng is called in from Hong Kong to Sydney, Australia to interrogate and extradite a Chinese drug dealer, but becomes increasingly involved in a larger criminal network despite protests of the local law enforcement.

As far as I can tell, The Man From Hong Kong is Trenchard-Smith's first feature length film, and boy what a fucking doozy of a first film. To be a rookie in the 70s and get to blow shit up like this certainly took some sway somewhere.

This film stars Jimmy Wang Yu, who was apparently quite the problem actor. I had heard of his being tough to work with in a review long ago by Cinema Diabolica about his 1976 film The Master of the Flying Guillotine. Yu and Trenchard-Smith had issues on this set as well with who was directing who, but the pairing here at least made for quite a flashy film given the time period.

It starts off with a bang (fantastic helicopter/car/chase sequence capped off with the camera almost getting taken out by a flying door from the first of several carsplosions), and pays off with action throughout.

Yu is solid in his acting and martial arts, but for fans of later Shaw Bros. style kung fu action, you may find him a bit lacking. He was a big star at the time, even having directed his own films, and this film happened right in the middle of the kung fu craze that was going on in Hong Kong. Maybe it was because he was pissed off the entire time making the film, but his bad attitude and almost exclusively straight face play well into his character's hardline approach to "law" enforcement.

I don't mean to downplay Wu's physical skills here. He's not as flashy as many others, but I appreciate a less flashy style in cinematic martial arts as well as it can come across as more realistic sometimes. Sonny Chiba is one such actor that comes to mind. His kicks aren't the highest, but they carry such force they can look great. Yu is no Chiba, but he is still entertaining to watch. I'm not sure how many of his own stunts he did, but either way much of the action going on was largely convincing.

George Lazenby is the antagonist (other than some short appearances by Sammo Hung, Grant Page, and even Trenchard-Smith himself as unnamed villains), and is looking quite lovely with mis mustache of doom. I gotta appreciate some good facial hair. Lazenby is probably most famous for portraying James Bond only once in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. He's really good here I thought, and even looks pretty badass doing his martial arts at various points. I would like to have seen him more in the film, but what can you do?

Having two big personalities like Yu's Hong Kong Dirty Harry and Lazenby's Jack Wilton perhaps would ahve been too much. Yu was good at kicking nameless thug ass throughout the film, and the conflict between Wilton and Fang Seng Leng built up pretty well. Trenchard-Smith wrote a fairly standard story here, but directed it decently, especially for a first time.

There are some parts that drag and seem out of place, such as the "love affair" between Leng and a chick played by the beautiful Rosalind Speirs. The musical montage that accompanies the two of them horseback riding and frolicking in meadows is just fucking bizarre in the midst of a film with goddamn cars crashing through houses and bloody fights in a karate dojo. I understand the point of the scene, but it really felt awkward the entire time.

Luckily Trenchard-Smith largely sticks to what he does well, shooting action sequences. There's some fantastic stuff here with fights and car chases and such. Knowing this came this early in a director's career is even more impressive. The car chase through more rural roads in the back half of the film is one of the coolest I have seen in awhile. There are some real nice flourishes in the filming, particularly with the cars. Trenchard-Smith and his crew seemed to really have a handle on this aspect of movie-making very early on - you can really feel the speed and impact.

The action here is the lynchpin holding it all together, and taken as such, you can really leave the film with a sweet sweet taste in your mouth. Like I said, given the time period this was made, there's a lot of crazy shit here.

This is not a perfect film by any means, but is well beyond just being average. It almost would fit better in the 1980s. Hang gliding plays a part in this when all is said and done.

Yes, hang gliding.

 While some parts dragged and weren't great, and the hit song that opens and closes the film is a disco travesty, I still had a good time with this and would recommend it to action fans, and especially to those wanting to beef up on their Trench.

Score: 7.25 / 10

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