Handcuff, The (1979) Review

"The Handcuff" Chinese VHS Cover

"The Handcuff" Chinese VHS Cover

AKA: Hand Cuffs
Director: Wu Ma
Writer: Michael Chan Wai Man, Wu Ma
Cast: Michael Chan Wai Man, Nora Miao, Lo Lieh, Bill Lake
Running Time: 95 min.

By Jeff Bona

Ah Chang (Chan Wai Man), also known as “The Green Dragon,” is an expert at kung fu, a master of weaponry (put a slingshot in his hands and it’s as good as a sniper rifle) and one hell of a killing machine. He’s the best at what he does, which is why he works for Boss Chow Kwan, a ruthless Triad godfather.

Today, Ah Chang’s life is about to change…

When a woman named Mung (Nora Miao) witnesses him murdering his target, he attacks her and assumes she’s dead. The next day, he learns she is still alive, so he finds the hospital she’s recovering at, and sets out to shut her up for good; but upon his arrival, police catch him in-the-act and he is arrested.

Luckily for Ah Chang, a police inspector named Chan is assigned to his case. Not only is Chan an old friend his, but years ago — way before they were on opposite sides of the law — he had saved Chan’s life. Because of their relationship, Chan goes easy on him and assures that he has nothing to worry about, as long as no evidence is found.

However, things heat up for Ah Chang when Mung is finally brought in to identify him as the killer. Surprisingly, she recognizes his face – but keeps her silence – and he is set free.

Ah Chang embraces this second chance and decides that he wants to retire his life of crime and marry Mabel, his girlfriend. Boss Chow Kwan gives him his blessings, but warns him that Mabel is not the marrying type.

After a series of unfortunate events, Ah Chang realizes that he can’t escape his violent lifestyle – just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in!

I’ve never been the biggest Chan Wai Man fan. I always thought he carried himself too much like a prick. He sort of has this asshole look on his face that I can’t fully explain. Mind you, every movie I’ve see him in, he plays roles that perfectly fit what I’m talking about. After doing research, I actually found out that he’s a real-life triad member, which probably explains his full, upper-body tattoos. In addition to being a gangster, the guy is also an established kickboxing (and boxing) champion; not to mention, an avid practitioner of Taekwondo, and northern and southern Kung fu.

With that said, I enjoyed The Handcuff (either that, or I’m secretly afraid this guy might read this review and beat me up). Once I got through the opening credits, and got a feel for the story, I didn’t mind Chan Wai Man. I’m sure it has something to do with the quality of the movie: it has a sense of style and doesn’t seem rushed. The plot is well-contructed and the action scenes are tight. There are a few comedy gags that seem misplaced, but nonetheless, they were funny.

Director Wu Man (veteran Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest actor) and Chan Wai Man (who also wrote the film) took key elements from Francis Ford Copolla’s The Godfather (1972) – such as the opening montage of assassinations and Boss Chow Kwan’s “I don’t deal in drugs.” But then again, what gangster movie isn’t inspired by The Godfather?

I like how Ah Chang was portrayed as a good guy, even though he’s practically a cold-hearted murder. I mean, he would have strangled Nora Miao’s character if he didn’t get caught by the cops! That’s messed up.

Speaking of Nora Miao, I get the impression that she was just thrown in because of her status and good looks. Even though her character is crucial to the plot, her addition seems forced. Keep in mind, if you added up all her scenes, they probably equal about 5 minutes. As far as her dialogue? This paragraph alone has more words than her entire scripted part.

Lo Lieh is in this movie, too. He doesn’t show up until the end, but he’s one of the main baddies. Again, probably thrown in to spice up the third act.

For those of you who like to get squeamish, expect explicit scenes of gore: one involving a gunshot wound to the leg; I swear, if it’s not real human flesh they’re using, it has to be some sort of half-cooked, bloody pork.


Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 7/10

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