Director: Ti Lung
Producer: Lin Hsiang Fan
Writer: I Kuang, Ti Lung
Cast: David Chiang, Ti Lung, Ming Ming, Wan Man, Simon Yuen (Siu Tin), Fung Ngai, Chiang Nan, Kong Do, Lam Jing, Lo Dik, Yen Shi Kwan
Running Time: 99 min.
By Mighty Peking Man
After Xiang Rong’s (David Chiang) father passes away, he makes a promise to his mother and sister that he will earn money and look after them. He takes up a job as a grocery store delivery boy where he’s constantly treated like shit by his boss. With no choice and lack of any other working skill, Xiang deals with the job and continues to put up with the harsh work environment.
One day, on a routine delivery, he runs into a hood named Shi (Kong Do aka The Human Testicle), who wants to recruit him into his gang of crooks. Xiang declines his offer and is beaten up. After more encounters with Shi, Xiang decides to learn kung fu so he can defend himself. With the help of Gen Lai (Ti Lung), he is introduced to reputable kung fu teacher (Simon Yuen).
With his mind on life’s hardships and constant bullying by not only gangs, but also his own boss, Xiang obsesses over his martial arts training. Mixing rage, determination, and physical training, Xiang begins to master fighting styles faster than any other student do and becomes a killing machine almost naturally.
It’s during another brawl with Shi during which he becomes victorious, that his uncanny fighting ability catches the eye of a triad leader named Mr. Tou (Lo Dik) who wants to use him as a personal assassin. At first, Xiang is skeptical but when Mr. Tou reveals his lavish salary, he accepts; no questions asked.
What ensues is a war between two crime bosses with Xiang as the key player in the middle of it all. It is only a matter of time before Xiang rethinks his violent lifestyle and questions his role in life. After admitting to his mother about his deadly career, Xiang decides to turn himself in to the police. Mr. Tou ultimately finds out about Xiang’s change of heart and is threatened that he will tell the police about his crime operations. Now that Xiang and his mother’s life are in jeopardy, he decides that he must do one more thing before he turns himself in to the law; and that is to kill Mr. Tou.
“The Young Rebel” is yet another coming of age tale of those good boy turned gangster flicks made popular by Chang Cheh (ie “The Delinquent,” “Generation Gap,” and “Chinatown Kid”) throughout the 1970s. Though it was produced under Chang Cheh’s film company, “The Young Rebel” was directed by Shaw star Ti Lung, who also guest stars. By the end of the movie, you realize that Ti Lung’s talents go beyond his onscreen ability. Though not as well paced and easy moving as Chang Cheh’s similar themed films, “The Young Rebel” still holds its own. In fact, if someone told me that Chang Cheh was the co-director, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
“The Young Rebel” plays as one big flashback; a structure style that would become an ongoing fad years later in Hollywood films such as in “Pulp Fiction.” That alone gives the film a hip, groundbreaking edge that was probably considered strange back then. Considering how the beginning and end of the film reveal what makes sense, you realize how ingenious the idea is. Between Ti Lung and I Kuang (the two credited screenwriters), I’m really impressed.
There seems to be some debate surrounding the film’s choreography. The Celestial DVD sleeve credits Simon Yuen as the fight choreographer, however, in the film’s actual credits, it lists Liu Chia Yung, Huang Pei Chi, and Chan Chaun as the film’s “Fighting Instructors.” For a 1973 film, the fight scenes seem to be more defined and swift than, say “The Angry Guest,” which is of typical early 1970s Liu Chia Yung fare. Whoever was responsible for the fight scenes did a damn good job, especially considering the time.
“The Young Rebel” has a lot of action, but for the most part, the drama takes up most of the space (David Chiang’s character doesn’t learn how to fight until about halfway through the film). It’s not as bloody as the average Chang Cheh film of the time, but the hard-hitting detailed action makes up for it.
Look for a handful of cameos including ones from Sammo Hung, Simon Yuen, and an extended one from Eddie Ko. Not only, music enthusiasts might get a kick out of hearing Pink Floyd’s “Time” which comes out of nowhere and surprising, it fits in well with the movie.
Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8/10