Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hapkido (He Qi Dao,1972)

Angela Mao takes center stage in another box office smash for Golden Harvest, 'Hapkido'! If someone asked me which of her films they should watch off the bat, this would be in the top three without question. The film also stars Carter Wong(his debut film as an actor) and Sammo Hung, with Whang In Sik, Pai Ying as standout supporting roles. You even have Wei Ping Ao, famous for getting his ass whooped in two Bruce Lee films in a role as a sniveling supplicant. And in what would be a regular thing, Jackie Chan appears here as a stuntman and takes some harsh blows. Corey Yuen and Yuen Biao also have cameos here, but they're quick.

The film opens on a pastoral setting in a Korea occupied by the Japanese, circa 1934. Yu Ying(Angela), Fan Wei(Sammo), and Kao Chung(Carter) are having a picnic as another group has fun nearby. The fun stops as three Japanese men enter and start degrading the revelers. The main bespectacled Japanese guy goes and hits on Yu Ying, who is in Korean hanbok(traditional dress). She lets him know that she is Chinese, and his reply is that Japan will soon rule China as well. Which then leads to Fan Wei snuffing him, resulting in a brawl that leads into the opening credits. Nice action segway. We find out that all three went to Korea to study Hapkido from their teacher, played by famed Korean Hapkido expert Ji Han Jae. After an appraisal of all of their skills, he bids them farewell and they return to Guangzhou, China to set up the Eagle School, teaching hapkido and providing free medical care to the community. But, they run afoul of the Japanese Black Bear school due to a mishap and Fan Wei's run-ins with their students. Things soon come to a head and Yu Ying must lead the way to end the Japanese tyranny.

Hapkido is a thrilling action set piece. Granted, there are a few things with the movie that aren't the best. First, this would be one of those movies that relied on anti-Japanese sentiment that was first displayed in 'Fist of Fury'. While it's not rabid, you can't miss the depictions of Japanese being lecherous or the slurs. Also, Carter Wong makes his debut here, but seems real wooden with his dialogue. But he shows that fighting skill that led him to a long career. (And if you check the trailer, note that Golden Harvest may have gotten carried away with describing his skills.)The fight scenes are magnetic, with Angela delivering some serious beatdowns. There's one in particular where she breaks out that iron rod you see in the picture above. That will make you wince. And the last fight scene is especially bloody, grindhouse style. Even Sammo's scenes are no joke, giving hope to pudgy cats across the globe, feel me? In short, Hapkido is a great flick with repeat value and worth you hitting up the Web to get a DVD copy.

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