HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Three Musketeers in Cavalier Boots
Hunter's Prayer, The
Country
Absolution
Rough Draft, A
Battle of the Godfathers
Lu Over the Wall
She's Funny That Way
Vox Lux
Aftermath, The
Five Fingers for Marseilles
Jupiter's Moon
Favourite, The
Mysteries of the Gods
Coming Home
De Sade
Patti Cake$
Hellbound
Final Destination 2
Romance
Bros: After the Screaming Stops
Cockleshell Heroes, The
Mule, The
Sunday in the Country
Nutcracker Fantasy
Spellcaster
Hipsters
Executive Action
Captain Marvel
Zombie Girl
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Rhinoceros
Monkey King 3, The
Adventurers, The
Stripped to Kill
Daughter of Dr. Jekyll
Aladdin's Magic Lamp
Christopher Robin
Hole in the Ground, The
Daniel
   
 
Newest Articles
Wondrous Women: Supergirl vs Captain Marvel
Things Have Changed: Films You'd Be Insane to Make Now
The Hole in the Ground: Director Lee Cronin Interview
She's Missing: Director Alexandra McGuinness Interview
Woo's the Boss: Last Hurrah for Chivalry & Hand of Death on Blu-ray
Get Ahead in Showbiz: Expresso Bongo and It's All Happening
Outer Space and Outta Sight: Gonks Go Beat on Blu-ray
Tucked: The Derren Nesbitt Interview
Locomotion Pictures: The Best of British Transport Films on Blu-ray
Roman Scandals: Extreme Visions from Ancient Rome
Spider-Wrong and Spider-Right: The Dragon's Challenge and Into the Spider-Verse
Monster Dog: Cujo on Blu-ray
For Christ's Sake: Jesus Christ Superstar and The Last Temptation of Christ
Not In Front of the Children: Inappropriate Kids Movies
Deeper into Ozploitation: Next of Kin and Fair Game
   
 
  Eastern Condors Go GuerillaBuy this film here.
Year: 1987
Director: Sammo Hung
Stars: Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Joyce Godenzi, Lam Ching Ying, Corey Yuen Kwai, Charlie Chin Chiang-Lin, Yuen Wah, Cheung Kwok-Keung, Billy Lau, Yuen Woo Ping, Hsiao Ho, Chin Kar-Lok, Ka Lee, Ha Chi-Jan, Dr. Haing S. Ngor, Yasuaki Kurata, Billy Chow, Dick Wei
Genre: Action, War, Martial Arts, Adventure
Rating:  9 (from 2 votes)
Review: One year after the end of the Vietnam War, the American military recruit Lieutenant Lam (Lam Ching Ying, of Mr. Vampire fame) to lead a Dirty Dozen-style suicide mission. Ten expendable Chinese criminals - including super-tough Tung Ming-Hsin (Sammo Hung), his chain-smoking buddy Wu (Corey Yuen Kwai), whiny Ching Dai-Ho (Billy Lau, another Mr. Vampire veteran) and his kind-hearted brother Ching Dai-Kong (Cheung Kwok-Keung), smooth-talking Szeto Chin (Taiwanese matinee idol Charlie Chin Chiang-Lin, in one of his last roles), and the aging “Grandpa” (legendary director Yuen Woo Ping) - are offered $20,000 and American citizenship if they destroy an abandoned arsenal before the missiles fall into enemy hands. As their plane circles the drop zone, word reaches Lam that their mission has been cancelled. But since his men have already parachuted behind enemy lines, Lam conceals the truth as they bound bravely into all-out jungle warfare.

As the most influential and prolific innovator in Hong Kong cinema, Sammo Hung has many a masterpiece to his name and Eastern Condors ranks high among his greatest achievements. It is also, alongside the John Woo obscurity Heroes Shed No Tears (1985), among the few notable Hong Kong war movies. Despite an opening scene where an incensed Lt. Lam helps inept G.I.s hoist the U.S. flag, seemingly calculated to imply one should never send Americans to do a Chinese job, the plot proves more morally complex and humane than one might expect and ably counterbalances frenetic action scenes with a disarming amount of pathos. Sammo combines the same high-octane action, intricate choreography, eloquent storytelling, outstanding camerawork (celebrated director of photography Arthur Wong pulls off some audacious visuals) and the emotional subtext that characterise his great martial arts movies, to impart his hard-bitten world-view that life is a hell from which characters continuously struggle. Despite their superhuman skills, these heroes are not Rambo clones. They are desperate, frightened men, driven to do insane things solely because they want a better life, although while others squabble Tung clings to a moral code. As Yuen Woo Ping’s character wryly remarks in one of the film’s many darkly comic/semi-poignant death scenes: “I have been hanging in there since I was born!”

Nowhere is this stark, survivalist message more apparent than in the subplots concerning two key characters. After parachuting into Vietnam, the camo-clad mercenaries are guided through the jungle inferno by three, lethally skilled female Cambodian guerrillas led by Australian-Chinese beauty queen Joyce Godenzi. Godenzi’s scene-stealing antics (all the more impressive considering she had no martial arts training prior to making this movie) scored her a devoted fan-following which she consolidated with femme fatale action flicks like Licence to Steal (1989) and She Shoots Straight (1990). Indeed Sammo was so smitten, he married her and they remain together to this day. Godenzi’s character is devoted enough to execute a childhood friend-turned-traitor, but upon realising the hidden arsenal could be used to aid the Cambodian cause, even she briefly turns on the Condor team. Another ambiguous antihero is Rat Chieh (Yuen Biao). Styled like a manga hero, riding a motorbike adorned with multicoloured balloons (?) and a tapedeck blasting Cantopop at eleven, his amazing acrobatic kung fu skills are rivalled only by Tung’s. Yet his heroic impulses (e.g. defending villagers from local extortionists) are counterbalanced by a pragmatic streak. He sells black market goodies to the locals and only joins up with Condors on the promise of a better life stateside. To that end, Chieh latches onto Yeung Leung (Dr. Haing S. Ngor, the Cambodian activist and Oscar winner for The Killing Fields (1984)), a grinning simpleton who adds further plot quirks by knowing a lot more than anyone suspects. No matter how mercenary, Rat Chieh tries to be, he shares with Tung a nagging conscience derived from martial arts discipline that drives him to do the right thing. In many ways he proves the most significant character.

As an action film, Eastern Condors does not explicitly engage with the politics behind the Vietnam War but still paints a vividly bleak picture of life in a war zone. Desperation drives all. Peasants meekly acquiesce to strutting warlords. Children play Russian roullete. The whole jungle seemingly teems with things out to feed on each other and when nice guy Dai-Kong spares one little boy’s life, he is promptly stabbed to death. Of course it is the dynamic action that draws most people to this film and it certainly delivers. Most of the cast were seasoned directors and stunt choreographers in their own right and there is a sense all pooled their skills to deliver a great movie. Among the standout set-pieces: Sammo and Joyce Godenzi bursting out of the water in slow-motion like crocodile killers to despatch the Vietcong; Sammo slinging bamboo leaves like lethal flying darts (a skill he picked up from a local in the Philippines where the film was shot); Yuen Biao mowing more VC with his M-60 than the entire Marine Corps. The famously portly Sammo Hung put himself on a strict diet to make himself look more credible as a commando. Watching the newly svelte star bounce off steel rooftops like trampolines to take out a machinegun post or scuttle upside down from the treetops like Spider-Man is pure comic book fun.

This was a lavish Golden Harvest production with hitherto unheard of access to tanks, helicopters, impressive sets and pyrotechnics. Yet arguably its most memorable action scene is the final blistering, feet-and-fists battle between Sammo, Yuen and their childhood friend turned frequent co-star Yuen Wah, who plays an effete, hiccuping VC colonel whose goofy demeanour conceals kick-ass moves. It’s an action packed, angry, cynical film but one that ends on a wry note of hope. And several massive explosions. Sherman Chow Gam-Cheung contributes a marvellously moody score, although pop music connossieurs may hear spot some surprising cues lifted from the Ultravox hit “Vienna”!

Click here for the trailer


Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2042 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Sammo Hung  (1952 - )

Hong Kong born actor, producer and director and one of the best known figures in Hong Kong cinema. Hung's large frame belies a formidable martial arts ability, and he's best known for his collaborations with Jackie Chan during the 1980s and more recently for his US TV show Martial Law.

Hung's acting career began at the age of 12 but it was Enter the Dragon that gave him his first high profile role. He starred in a continuous stream of kung fu movies throughout the seventies, and made his directing debut in 1977 with Iron-Fisted Monk. A series of now-classic martial arts comedies followed, all directed by and starring Sammo - Warriors Two, Encounters of the Spooky Kind, Prodigal Son, My Lucky Stars, Pedicab Driver. But his best loved pictures are those in which he appeared alongside Jackie Chan, including Project A, Wheels on Meals, Dragons Forever and My Lucky Stars.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

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

Latest Poll
Which star do you think makes the best coffee?
Emma Stone
Anna Kendrick
Michelle Rodriguez
Sir Patrick Stewart
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
  Desbris M
Paul Shrimpton
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
  Derrick Smith
Darren Jones
   

 

Last Updated: