Director: Sammo Hung
Writer: Louis Lau, Wong Kai Gei
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Yuen Biao, Lau Kar Wing, Sammo Hung, Leung Kar Yan, Lee Hoi San, Mars, Wong Kwong Yue, Karl Maka, Peter Chan, Ho Pak Kwong, Billy Chan, Cheung Hei, Johnny Cheung, Wellson Chin, Chow Gam Kong, Chung Fat, Hui Ying Ying
Running Time: 104 min.
1979’s “Knockabout” represents the first starring role for one of the Three Dragons, Yuen Biao. The opening credits even state “Introducing Yuen Biao.” Behind the camera, Sammo Hung – one of Yuen’s fellow pupils at the Peking Opera School – served as director. It probably goes without saying that “Knockabout” is a must-see film for fans of either actor. Its 92 minute runtime is filled to the brim and overflowing with martial arts action.
Okay, I’ll be honest: the story isn’t that great. And the first hour is on the slow side. Yuen Biao and Bryan Leung (who also starred in Sammo’s “Warriors Two” and “The Victim”) play two penniless bums looking to make some easy money. They’ll cheat, rob, bribe, or steal just to get their hands on a few silver coins. As a result, they’re not the most likable characters in the history of Hong Kong cinema. Things change when they run into a seasoned kung fu master, played by Lau Kar Wing, who promptly kicks their asses after they try to scam him. The two buffoons realize the error of their ways and throw themselves at Wing’s feet, begging the “Sifu” to teach them his amazing kung-fu techniques.
Sammo himself also plays a part in the story as a beggar with great martial arts skill who may or may not be more than he seems. Several plots twist later and this film follows a similar formula to many Hong Kong flicks: the story goes from light and goofy to “deadly serious” by the end. The last 30 minutes of “Knockabout” feature some of the finest training scenes I’ve ever witnessed – Yuen Biao was in the shape of his life at the time and his sheer athleticism blew me away.
The final fight scene features Yuen and Sammo teaming up to fight a common foe; this brawl stretches across at least three locations and seemed to run a good 15 minutes. I lost track of how many times my jaw hit the floor. You can’t beat it when Yuen and Sammo combine their strength; they’ve got to be one of the best fighting duos of all time. In “Knockabout,” they also practice some Monkey-style martial arts, complete with real chimpanzee sound effects, which looks damn cool and had me rolling with laughter.
If you can make it through “Knockabout’s” admittedly lame first act, full of bad jokes and Karl Maka mugging for the camera, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best action of the Golden Harvest era. Really, if you like any of the stars involved – Yuen Biao, Sammo, Bryan Leung, or Lau Kar Wing – you can’t go wrong here because they all get their chance shine. And by “shine” I mean kick profuse amounts of ass. Kung fu fans, this is a must see!
HKFanatic’s Rating: 8.5/10