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  Magnificent 7 Kung Fu Kids Crime-busting Brat SquadBuy this film here.
Year: 1989
Director: Chiu Chan-Kwok
Stars: Yau Ying-Hung, Yukari Oshima, Phillip Ko Fei, Wong Chung-Yue, Lee Chung-Yat, Lo Dik, Cheung Ching-Fung, Wu Fan, Li Chang-An, Lam Kai-Man, Choi Chung-Chau, Chen Ching-Jen, Miu Wai-Lan, Ting Hung-Man
Genre: Comedy, Action, Martial Arts, Trash
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hong Kong is rocked by a spate of child kidnappings. In a joint venture with local triads, ice-cool femme fatale-in-white Big Sis (Yukari Oshima) and her black leather kung fu vixens target rich kids to ransom for a tidy sum. With the cops outfoxed at every turn, the Chief of Police is open to ideas. Whereupon someone suggests why not assemble a crack unit of undercover kids to bait-and-trap the bad guys? Which frankly sounds like a terrible idea. Nonetheless the HKPD assemble six scrappy, streetwise urchins plus the Chief's own clumsy, pudgy little son Junior (why?) to tackle the villains. But first they must endure a traumatic training regime at a military camp where the Seven's zany, adolescent antics cause no end of chaos for their long-suffering instructor (Yau Ying-Hung).

What made for a relatively entertaining kiddie kung fu comedy in Lucky Seven (1986) does not work nearly as well in this follow-up from director Chiu Chan-Kwok and co-writer/stunt choreographer/supporting actor Yau Ying-Hung. Not strictly a sequel, Magnificent 7 Kung Fu Kids ditches the original lineup of pint-sized pugilists for a new gang of undeniably accomplished albeit charmless child acrobats, only this time there is no token girl. Which is just as well. It is hard enough watching these little guys get smacked around, peppered with gunfire or smashing face-first through a plate-glass window. In any other country the physical abuse endured by the fierce-eyed child stars would land the filmmakers in jail. While the action scenes with kids flung around like human rag-dolls are liable to make many western viewers uncomfortable, it is worth noting that for local audiences at time they reflected a time-honoured Chinese belief that suffering breeds character. No doubt the impressive skills displayed by the young actors, who pull of spin-kicks and flying leaps so-called action stars like Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme would envy, did not come easy.

Adding to the nagging sense of extreme culture shock the film draws its chief inspiration from that heartwarming children's classic: Full Metal Jacket (1987). Yup, the bulk of the film centres around the brutal training regime the Seven endure at the military camp where they huff around an obstacle course, dodge bullets and sweat blood. Eventually the pressure drives them to turn on each other and also stage a revenge attack on their instructor after dark. Y'know, for kids, right? As in Stanley Kubrick's searing war film the chunky, inept cadet ends up victimized and abused by the others, leading to a would-be hilarious running gag where they all take turns dragging Junior behind closed doors for a good hiding. The problem Junior is portrayed as such a whiny, self-centred little asshole viewers will likely want to punch him too.

Compounding the weirdness, Chiu Chan-Kwok plays the gangster thread of the plot deadly straight in such instances as when the grief-stricken mother of one kidnap victim threatens to kill herself or a tense shootout between cops and criminals has a villain use two women as human shields! These all sit uneasily with silly scenes where the Seven run amuck at a shopping mall in their matching yellow jumpsuits, prank a store manager, get slapped by various women, flirt with a cute little girl and get into a turf war with another gang of kung fu kids. Laden with crass humour and misjudged moments, Magnificent 7 Kung Fu Kids is notable solely for the presence of bonafide martial arts legend Yukari Oshima. A graduate from Sonny Chiba's famed Japan Action Club, Oshima segued from TV stardom via the sentai (superhero) show Bioman (1984) to Hong Kong movies after her breakout role in the girls-with-guns classic Angel (1987). Thereafter she became a staple of that popular sub-genre: e.g. Beauty Investigator (1992), Mission of Justice (1992) and the excellent Angel Terminators II (1993). Cutting an imposing figure in shades and a white suit with a chic red scarf, Yukari gets to show off her skils in a showy slow-motion sequence and face off with the would-be kick ass kids in a finale that re-stages the climax of Lucky Seven to inferior effect. If you want to see camo-clad little boys beat up foxy women in black leather this is the movie for you. Might I also recommend seeing a psychiatrist.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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