Newest Reviews
Ritual, The
Les Girls
Death of Stalin, The
Mission, The
Wild Life, The
Eve of Destruction
Mad Death, The
Lost in Vagueness
Sleeping Beauty
In Search of Dracula
Fantastic Woman, A
Emmanuelle II
Far from Vietnam
Inherit the Wind
Post, The
King Frat
Commuter, The
Mister Buddwing
Kiki's Delivery Service
Mansfield 66/67
Old Enough
Bleeding Steel
Double Hour, The
My Generation
Certain Magical Index: The Movie - The Miracle of Endymion, A
That Good Night
Newest Articles
Boris Goes Bonkers, Bela Goes Bats: The Old Dark House and Mark of the Vampire
Charles Bronson's Mid-70s: Breakheart Pass and Others
Kids in America: The Breakfast Club vs Metropolitan
80s Dance-Off: Staying Alive vs Murder-Rock vs Breakin'
The Cinematic Darkside of Donald Crowhurst
Dutch Courage: The Flodder Series
Coming of Age: Boys on Film 18 - Heroes on DVD
Country and Irish - The secret history of Irish pop culture
Wash All This Scum Off the Streets: Vigilante Movies
Force the Issue: Star Wars' Tricky Middle Prequels and Sequels
Rediscovered: The Avengers - Tunnel of Fear on DVD
Sword Play: An Actor's Revenge vs Your Average Zatoichi Movie
Super Sleuths: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes on DVD
Stop That, It's Silly: The Ends of Monty Python
They're All Messed Up: Night of the Living Dead vs Land of the Dead
  Four Real Friends Macho men doing manly thingsBuy this film here.
Year: 1974
Director: Jimmy Wang Yu
Stars: Jimmy Wang Yu, Chan Sing, Chang Yu, Kam Kong, Luk Chuen, Lung Fei, Shan Mao, Yee Hung, Phillip Ko Fei, Su Chen-Ping, Sit Hon
Genre: Martial Arts
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A security team escorting a cache of jewels and gold bound for the Imperial government are slain by bandits working for Hsu (Lung Fei), a ruthless criminal hiding behind a respectable facade. The sole survivor, Hsun (Kam Kong), barely escapes with his life. He is rescued by Hung (Chang Yu), a noble merchant in western garb who also happens to be a skilled fighter. The duo cross paths with Master Wu (Chan Sing) who was once Hsun's teacher but now a miserable drunk burdened with guilt for having killed a man in a duel. Meanwhile the bandits foolishly lose a chunk of their loot at the gambling table to wily con man Hsiao Bao (Jimmy Wang Yu) who thus also becomes a target of Hsu. Pursued relentlessly by Hsu's psychotic Japanese ally Chin (Luk Chuen) and his whicker basket-masked ninja assassins, the four heroes must team up to exact revenge. That is if they can set aside their macho pride.

Released to American grindhouse theatres as Dragon Squad, Four Real Friends is another Jimmy Wang Yu joint about macho men doing manly things in a suitably masculine fashion. Grrr! Indeed the film places an almost comical emphasis on male pride, the preservation of which proves more important than retrieving the stolen jewels. The protagonists are men too tough to admit weakness, accept charity or back down when faced with impossible odds. Nevertheless the central theme is that no man is an island and friendship is worth more than gold. Viewed outside the context of mid-Seventies martial arts cinema, the tone and thematic preoccupations of Four Real Friends can seem somewhat camp, yet they echo ideas prevalent in the films of Bruce Lee and Jimmy Wang Yu's old mentor Chang Cheh. Which is probably no accident since the film was scripted by Chang's regular writer, the insanely prolific Ni Kuang.

As a narrative the film has two primary flaws. Firstly the story consistently strains for a pathos it never truly earns. Secondly the heroes' chest-beating machismo and prickliness makes them hard to empathize with. Chan Sing, more often typecast as a scowling villain, lands the strongest character arc as a self-loathing drunk redeemed by the love of a good woman. However, the film's idea of a motivational speech is having characters constantly berate Wu as 'useless' until he eventually relents. Meanwhile Jimmy Wang Yu upholds his bad boy image as a selfish scoundrel who can't help mouthing off to his allies. There is no scene in the film where the heroes develop any kind of mutual respect and yet come the big showdown they all stand together. Additionally each hero proves such a badass in their solo confrontations with Hsu's men they do not seem to need much help in the final fight, which sort of undoes the message inherent in the story.

On a more positive note the first two thirds of the plot are appreciably intricate and well handled by Jimmy Wang Yu. His fluid direction employs a number of artful compositions and devices such as jump-cuts and slow-motion to keep the story compelling and pacy. The film showcases the actor-director's range of influences from Japanese chanbara, Italian westerns, elements of the crime thriller genre mixed with a whole lot of old-fashioned, unpretentious chopsocky action. Although not a classic on the same level as Beach of the War Gods (1973) or Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976), Four Real Friends remains a product of Wang Yu at the peak of his powers as a director of action. The star gives himself a big solo centre-piece but for the most part generously shares the spotlight with an ensemble cast, giving them opportunities to shine. In particular the final fight with against Chin in a hut full of frantically flapping chickens encapsulates the awkward beauty of Jimmy Wang Yu's unique, rough and ready action style.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 498 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film


Jimmy Wang Yu  (1944 - )

Chinese actor/director born Yu Wang, who has worked almost entirely in the martial arts genre. A former swimming champion, Yu became one of the biggest stars of 70s kung fu for his work in films such as the The Magnificent Trio, One Armed Swordsmen and Dragon Squad. Often directed himself in his films and produced the Jackie Chan-starrer Island on Fire.

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman

Recent Visitors
Enoch Sneed
Graeme Clark
  Jamie Nichols
Andrew Pragasam
George White
Darren Jones
  Butch Elliot
  Mark Scampion


Last Updated: