Here is a great reason why I love reviewing movies on Flashlegrare.com, I can write my entire opening paragraph in such a ridiculously self indulgent fashion and yet nobody seems to mind that much. On top of that, I actually feel the need to do such things, mostly because it's necessary to inform those who actually read my reviews that I'm not only long winded but that I do have some hang ups about reviewing certain movies. For example, I think it's necessary to let people know that if I'm reviewing MATCHING ESCORT that I enjoy cheap violence, arrestingly low budget imagery, and just about anything featuring Pearl Cheung. Now, for my review of THE BIG FIGHT, I'm putting it out front: I don't see many punch and block/basher films, mostly because I don't seem to find them available anywhere. That said, this particular area remains curious to me, so when THE BIG FIGHT came into my posession, well, this review was the result.
So the movie explains to us in an opening narration that the story is set in the time of WWII, during the Japanese occupation of China. Tien Peng plays a travelling martial arts master who is returning home and gets attacked by evil Japanese soldiers, who promptly get their back ends handed back to them. Of course, the fact that he killed these soldiers never gets to biting Tien back later in the movie, nope he gets away with it. Now he goes back on his merry way and stops in a roadside restaurant, and gee, I wonder if a fight is going break out there. Hmm, I wonder. So inside there is a young woman (Cheung Ching Ching) singing opera, who gets accosted by a pervert guy. Tien Peng beats him up too, and this just about the tenth person he's kicked the crap out of in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. So this young woman and her companions who happen to only be pretending to be travelling performers, but are really rebellious counter Japanese fighters, decide to travel with Peng and then hide out in his town. Along the way, they run into a check point, where they once agian fight the Japanese. After making it into the town, they all hang out and enjoy themselves, and Tien Peng meets up with his girlfriend. Unfortunately, a former martial arts brother of Tien Peng happens to be getting real full of himself, seeing as he's the son of the town's chief, and it's his job to police the town. He gets into a fight with Cheung Ching-ching, and loses, but it angers him. So he finds some salt that Tien Peng was travelling with, and accuses him of giving aid to resistance fighters, because salt is an important part of making gunpowder (?). So while Peng is in jail, the chief and his son get real cozy with the Japanese occupying force. After it is proven the Peng is innocent, the Chief and his son set up a tournament with the Japanese government where powerful Japanese fighters fight Chinese fighters. The Chief hopes that he'll get money and power from the Japanese as long as he lures the best Chinese fighters to their death in arena matches. Not only that, but his perverted son spends his time raping women with the support of the Japanese fighters. After his uncle, a very young student, and his girlfriend are all killed, Tien Peng finally joins the fight once again, and to no surprise, reaks massive havock and generally runs amuck on all of the Japanese fighters.
This movie is wildly inconsistent in many ways. Costuming decisions are generally smart, with Japanese soldiers at least wearing military uniforms and actually marching (In Robert Tai's film LEGEND OF THE DRUNKEN TIGER, the foreign soldiers run about carrying flags, but never -ever- move in an organized march). Same goes for Chinese costuming which creates just enough verisimilitude to ignore the fact that there's often telphone poles in the background and other, fairly obvious problems like that. But looking past that, this is effective, if very basic melodrama in which the bad guys and good guys are obviously layed out and the audience has nothing to do but sit back and turn their brains on silent mode.
There is some aspect of me that wants to peg this movie as a pretty blatant knock-off of Bruce Lee's FIST OF FURY. That doesn't really matter much though, as the movie clips along at a good enough rate that story doesn't matter that much and action comes along every few minutes. Now, this being one of two or three bashers I've seen, action is difficult for me to describe, but I think I'm liking this. The action is staged in such a way that arms and legs are flailing and noodling all over, but at the same time, the choreography itself contains some good moves, and there's some good performers in some bit parts. Jack Long shows up as a Chinese fighter in the tournament, and Tien Peng actually is a decent screen fighter, he moves quite well. There's some good examples of Peking Opera acrobatics and the movie appears to be on the cusp of being a shapes movie. The tournament features the most action, with Japanese styles of Judo, Sumo, and Karate. These are some of the roughest and most violent fights in the movie. Yee Yuen, a great swordplay star, has a bit part as a Japanese swordsman and he moves fast enough and well enough to look cool.
Tien Peng himself holds the movie together and he adds a bit of class to the movie which would have been lost on a lesser actor. He's really good in the part, showing good range and looking convincingly angry. However, there's one aspect that some people might not be too keen on, which is the fact that there's some surprisingly frequent violence directed against women as well as a few scenes of violence against children, including death inflicted by punching a young boy in the face! I don't know, some people might think that all of the cartoonish evil is a bit of overkill.
And if anything, overkill is a good way of describing THE BIG FIGHT. There's tons of fights, good guys who are really good, bad guys who are ridiculously bad, and ugly dudes who are damn ugly (look at some of the greasy mugs on those guys). Fights occur with bizarre rapidity, and there's more near nudity than I would have expected from a Taiwanese movie from this era. So I would consider this outing into relatively uncharted territories of the kung fu genre a success, and one that I plan on following up whenever the opportunity presents itself again.