Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Hot, the Cool and The Vicious (Nan Quan Bei Tui Zhan Yan Wang, 1976)

Next up here on Hai!Karate is a certified classic for all you kung-fu heads, 'The Hot, the Cool and The Vicious'! This flick stars Dorian Tan Tao-Liang, better known as 'Flash Legs' because of his jumping ability and high-powered kicks. Don Wong Tao and Philip Ko are also in this joint from Taiwan.

The film begins in Black Stone, a sleepy village. Sleepy that is, until the arrival of a stranger who shakes up the town. That stranger is revealed to be the famous Southern Fist' fighter Pai Yu Ching (Tao). News gets to the chief, 'Northern Leg' Captain Lu(Tao-Liang), who is dealing with the murder of his mother in law AND a past situation that puts him in jeopardy. Both men are in a kind of tense standoff with each other, made worse by the mayor hiring Yu Ching as protection due to his son being responsible for the death of Lu's own mother-in-law. And to add more mystery, Mr.Lung (Tommy Lee) arrives, and soon all three men are drawn into a conflict for the ages. The only real question is, who'll be on the side of who?

This movie is a slept-on goodie for a couple of reasons. For one, it's from Taiwan, which had its own movie production scene and gave rise to quite a few stars. But in comparison to studios like Shaw & Golden Harvest, their scale and reach was smaller to start. First Films was the bigger fish in that nation. Another reason lies in Tan Tao-Liang. Prior to this film, he was making a name for himself as an actor, with a prime turn in 'The Hand Of Death' alongside a young Jackie Chan and James Tien. (That movie was also one of famed director John Woo's first.) Tao-Liang's flashy style is shown off here in grand fashion, especially against Mr.Lung. As for Mr.Lung...he was a notable baddie who walked around looking like a half-man, half-gorilla on dust in silk garments. Kinda fits for his own monkey style kung-fu. 'The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious' also works because of the intricate plot and high elements of intrigue that's neatly packed into 90 minutes. I stress the action part because if you're looking for gravitas out of these actors, you're out of luck. Tan Tao-Liang is somewhat stonefaced throughout, and Wong Tao, while more efficient with emoting, isn't as effective either. But the fight sequences are great, and utilize the actor's abilities fully. The final scene will make you bug out a bit at the choreography, handled by Tommy Lee himself. So, if you watch 'The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious', bear in mind that you'll get some real crisp action to make up for some wilting here and there. But it's worth it.

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