Sunday, March 28, 2004

Snake Deadly Act (She xing zui bu)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 March 2004 at Coolidge Corner #2 (Midnight Ass-Kickings)

Punching and kicking. That's what you go to these movies for, and Snake Deadly Act recognizes this. It opens on two unnamed (but color-coded) men fighting, and this segment lasts long enough for the audience to feel hurt. And even for a genre that doesn't waste much time tying up loose ends after the last set piece, Snake Deadly Act actually freeze-frames and pops up "The End" during the final (presumably killing) blow during the final fight.

Between them, though, there are points when people aren't punching and kicking each other, or when the martial arts isn't quite as crisp. And this Shaw Brothers film hits a lot of standard notes. After the initial fight, we flash forward about twenty years. You've got your rich kid (the son of Kuo, the victor in that first fight) who knows some kung fu but not as much as some of the men and women he opts to take on out of a sense of justice. Then you've got the master who takes him under his wing, but has motives of his own. And then, there are training sessions. Roughly half an hour's worth. Some of which, I'm certain, was repeated footage from ten minutes earlier.

Fortunately, the fighting is very, very good. In his only film role as the younger Kuo, Kun Lung Ng isn't bad as Kuo The Younger, while director Wilson Tong is enjoyable as Kuo The Elder, who, via the Law Of Conservation Of Characters, winds up playing a more important role than one might initially suspect. The final three-way battle is a satisfying ending. The production values are also pretty decent - while there were some goofy looking costumes, the music was quite frankly better than what you get in martial arts movies make fifteen years later.

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