Thursday, March 3, 2011


Original Title: Ma tou da jue dou
Year: 1973
Director: Ta Huang
Writer: Kuang Ni
Genre: Martial Arts

A martial arts fighter, haunted by his past, takes a job as a dock worker in a small village. His vow never to fight again is tested by the cruel owner of the pier.

I wasn't actually sure what to expect going into this film. Just going on the poster alone, I thought I was in for a Bolo as a bully or even a comedy. What I found was, despite Bolo being top billed, he was not in a large chunk of the film and it was a relatively serious story about common men fighting back against some oppressive, rich bastards.

(No real reason to post the Spanish/Mexican version of the poster here except that I think it's pretty sweet.)

Bolo Yeung is not the star of this film, but when he makes his appearance, it's quite an impact, as only a guy of his size and demeanor can. They really play off his massive strength and make him pretty fucking scary. That's the Bolo I remember from Bloodsport! (Plus a few more lines of dialogue...) The volume is turned up to motherfuckin' 11 when he's breaking furniture and logs and necks... my tv speaker was about to burst.

Maybe I was just in a particularly chipper mood from lots of coffee and tea for breakfast as I finally made it through this film with jittery hands and brain, but I had a lot of fun. The first half plodded on at times, but there is a pivotal scene with an old man fight that turned the corner for me.

As with big men in professional wrestling, Bolo was given a role here that works for a dude quite a bit larger than the others around him. While it was interesting to see him in a near comedic role in Fists of Justice, being the unstoppable monster. The fact that he can bust out the relatively quick kung fu makes it all the more badass.

Look at this suave motherfucker.

While the acting overall isn't phenomenal, and some of the faces made especially in fighting seem very ridiculous, I appreciated the emotion brought to the story here by all actors involved... Bolo included. The main character is tormented by a past mistake and is torn on protecting those around him from oppression. The dock workers are visually frustrated by their situation. The dock owner is an arrogant, cocky asshole. Even Bolo gets in on the fun with being cocky on one hand and frustrated with wanting to do things on his own as opposed to just being simply hired muscle.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not championing subtle acting nuances or anything like that... but having a group of actors actually seem excited to film a story adds to the overall effect for me in a postive way. I could get into the film a lot more than if everyone was just stoic. It's possible the decent English dub on this copy helped matters as well.

There are some cool/up-close angles at time, but for the most part the film is standard faire for a martial arts film. Ta Huang, who only directed two films both around the same time, did a serviceable job... especially for a first film. It's only about an hour and a half long, but I ultimately feel it is a bit too long... probably because of the first half that takes quite awhile to set things up.

I was all set to come on here and have some laughs and write about some silliness cheese in the film, but Chinese Hercules just isn't that film. It's not gonna blow you away, but get a little amped up on caffeine and it may just hit you in the right spot. Solid and different than expected.

Score: 6.75 / 10


Samuel Wilson said...

Bolo is endearingly infantile here ("I don't need help!!!") and I just love those good old working-class kung fu films that apparently aren't getting made any more. Nice write-up of a fun film.

Karl Brezdin said...

Strange to learn that this ISN'T the definitive Bolo Yeung film, especially since it's always been marketed as such.

It's even more disheartening that the ultimate Bolo movie doesn't appear to exist. He's always a supporting character or villain but I've always felt he had the screen presence to carry a film; seems like a case of "always the bridesmaid, never the bride."