Director: Sammo Hung
Writer: Louis Lau Tin Chi
Producer: Karl Maka
Cast: Sammo Hung, Leung Kar Yan, Fanny Wang, Chang Yi, Peter Chan Lung, Wilson Tong Wai Shing, Yuen Mao, Cheung Ging Boh, Fung Lee, Karl Maka, To Siu Ming
Running Time: 90 min.
According to the Ric Meyers/Bobby Samuels audio commentary track on the DVD, The Victim marks Sammo Hung’s first directing effort, but originally released 3 or 4 years later. I am not sure this is true because I think popular belief is that Iron-Fisted Monk was his first. It is also one of the first old schools films I have seen that features a non-linear narrative, using an ample amount of flashbacks and creative editing to move the story back and forth in time. Anyway, this is undoubtedly old school kung fu theater at its best.
Sammo plays a goofy, rotund, and ultimately dangerous martial artist in search of a master. He scours the countryside in search of someone who can be him in a fair fight, therefore, becoming his master. After testing and beating a variety of opponents, Hung witnesses Leung Ka Yan rescue a blind man using some considerable skill and strength. Sammo is instantly impressed and decides to test him. Thus, begins a series of scuffles pitting hefty Sammo against lean, athletic Leung, all bouts leaving Sammo covered in bruises. Leung is clearly worthy of becoming his master. However, Leung has his own problems and is not interested in teaching Sammo’s smiling pest.
One of the fights takes place in a bathhouse were Leung gives Sammo the slip and the fat one ends up fighting scores of naked men. The bout quickly degenerates into a towel snapping and penis-flicking contest, complete with naked stuntmen flying into water or painfully hitting the floor. Could this be the start of Sammo’s cinematic obsession with male nudity?
A word about Leung Ka Yan. It is my understanding that he has no formal martial arts training. This makes his performance here all the more amazing. In a film with just about wall-to-wall fights, Leung is called upon to perform some very intricate sequences, featuring weapons and countless moves with a very a small about of edits. Watch this film and challenge Steven Seagal or Van Damme to try this stuff. They are such a joke.
Leung turns out to be a stepson to his master who also has another son. Both boys were his pupils. Chang Yi, the stepbrother, is something of a troublemaker. Seems that he decided to try to rape Leung’s bride (Faye Wong) on their wedding night. With his eye patch and pissed-off nature, Chang Yi can be best described as the badass Nazi son of the Devil. He’s a wonderful villain in the same way Yuen Wah is a great villain. Apparently, he even has the skills to back it up.
Now I am gonna say something the may turn off many Sammo Hung fans. The story eventually branches off centering on Leung’s family dilemma and Sammo becomes a supporting player. To me, that is fine because Leung and his wife’s troubles are quite frankly more interesting.
The kung fu fights in The Victim are simply amazing. Each one seems to have a pace and a temper of its own. The battles range from slapstick to serious to bloody viscous. Credit assistant kung fu coordinators Lam Ying Ching and Yuen Biao. I find it to be a minor treat to watch the action and pick out the places were these two future greats double other actors during fights.
Criticism time. The story, like most films of it time, suffers greatly from the spontaneous filmmaking style. Basically, it is quite obvious that at many points during filming that the crew had to stop and figure out what is gonna happen next. Given the fact that much of the narrative is presented with flashbacks and uses unconventional gimmicks for the time, the final product comes off messy. Sammo may have bitten off more than he could chew in that respect.
But hey, do what I do. Don’t think about it. Enjoy the chaos and the dilemmas of these very interesting characters.
Reefer’s Rating: 9/10