Sunday, 13 July 2008
The Last Hero in China/Claws of Steel/Iron Rooster vs. the Centipede (1993)
This humorous Wong Fei Hung story (not part of the Once Upon a Time in China series) tells of how the legendary physician and martial arts master (Jet Li) moves to Canton with his school, and ends up in a house next to a brothel. When the prude Wong Fei Hung realises who his neighbours are, he is deeply concerned with how the school will be able to maintain face and how his students will be able to concentrate on their training.
Of course, the students soon get friendly with the neighbours, and they can't understand why their master doesn't want to have anything to do with these nice girls. The madam makes a bet with them that Wong Fei Hung will not be able to resist two of the girls, but it turns out that his interests are of a different kind ... When Wong Fei Hung realises the two patients who've come to see him are actually from next door, and not ill at all, he seizes the opportunity to engage in a bit of BDSM.
No wonder that Master Wong will only be enthralled by a woman with whom he can engage in endless steamy kung fu sparring sessions: Yin-Er (Man Cheung) and her father have disguised themselves as vagabond martial artists performing in the streets, while they are looking for Yin-Er's sister, who has been kidnapped. One day, when a man in the audience to his own misfortune makes shameful comments at their performance, and Yin-Er kicks his sorry ass, Wong Fei Hung introduces himself and offers them his help.
It turns out that Yin-Er's sister was kidnapped by heretic perverted Shaolin monks. Wong Fei Hung, his students, the girls next door and the pimp, who desperately wants master Wong to accept him as his student, help Yin-Er and her dad in their quest to crush the perverted monks and save the women.
Meanwhile, there is the obligatory assassination/kidnapping scheme of a foreign official, in which a certain madly laughing Legate Officer Lui (Gnong Kau Chai) is involved. He also leads a team of centipede dancers, and during a lion dancing show, the lions of Wong Fei Hung's school are suddenly attacked by Lui's centipede, who defeats them and catches the bait.
Wong Fei Hung has tried some ear medicine on himself, resulting in him becoming deaf, and after the rampage of the centipede he goes away to Yin-Er and her dad in the countryside in order to heal his hearing and figure out a way to win over the centipede. When he sees how a rooster kills a centipede, he has a sudden revelation ...
... and returns to Canton, just in time before the attempt on the foreign official is carried out at a centipede dancing show, with a new kung fu style -
- the rooster style! A hilarious fight between the rooster and the Amazing Somersaulting Centipede ensues ...
This is a quite funny and high-paced film with lots and lots of amazing martial arts scenes. Unfortunately, the rather complicated plot gets a bit lost in between the prolonged fight scenes.
Besides the aforementioned rooster style, the film shows many different kung fu styles and techniques, ranging from Wong Fei Hung's drunken style kung fu to him fighting a convict, whom Legate Officer Lui has unleashed on him, while sitting in a chair during the whole fight.
The martial arts and action scenes were choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, and that is also in this film a guarantee for very good quality.
As opposed to Cousin Yi, Wong Fei Hung's love interest in the Once Upon a Time in China films, Yi-Er is really cool and kicks major ass.
As for the conservative views of Wong Fei Hung on the prostitutes, I suppose that if there had been a little bit more focus on the plot, he might have come to the conclusion that they were good people just like himself and his students. ... Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part?
I fully agree with the reviewer blazing_1 at imdb.com: "... do not forget to see Jet's rooster style. C'mon, you know Jet Li is the man if he can do that scene and still look hardcore."