This is one of the seminal martial arts flicks of the industry, and a whole load of fun to boot. The fight scenes, of which there are many, will give you a good idea of just how damn hard Hong Kong actors had to work in them days. Fights, usually with one good guy battling at least half a dozen opponents, run for about five minutes, with all participants lunging, kicking, punching, and generally shakin’ it all about in finely choreographed martial splendour. No editing, no cunning cutting to splice together half a second from one angle with a tenth of a second from another angle, no team of wranglers to help the lead get his leg into position for the crucial shot. These guys are all leaping at each other with the cameras rolling, and miraculously no-one dies. We hope.
That’s not to say that the film is perfect. For one thing, the director had apparently just discovered gravity, so each fight resulted in several combatants rolling down the slope (amazing how there’s always a slope when you need one). Okay, okay, we all laughed, no big deal. And occasionally the music went melodramatic, or the significant glances were way too significant, or something. But remember, gang, this was made in the early halcyon days of a booming industry, and the work of the last 40-ish years was built on these foundations, so show some respect.
To the film itself: three ‘blood brothers’ band together to conquer bandits and make a fortune. It all starts to come apart, as one has overweening ambitions and a desire for anothers wife. Brung low by a woman, ain’t it always the way. Ti Lung is extremely tasty as Ma, the Big Brother, while David Chiang, as third brother, is scrawny, athletic, and seldom without his grin. And the director has a deft touch with what the romance trade calls sexual tension: ‘Hero saves heroine from water, then ends up clasping wet girl to manly breast’ had the whole cinema holding their breath.
In short, then, it’s a film that’s important because of the impact the director had on the HK industry. It’s also engaging, with hard-working fight scenes, solid characters, and a well-spun plot. Just forgive the hokiness, out of respect, and you’ll have fun.