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  Hero of Shaolin Four Sore Brothers
Year: 1984
Director: Jsai Mai Chen
Stars: Alexander Lo Rei, Mike Wong, Kim Fan, Gam Yuen Chit, Eagle Han Ying, Li Hai Hsing, Robert Tai, Jin Nu Ri, Chan Fei, Chien Sun, Lee Eun-suk
Genre: Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: China is the place, and yesteryear is the time, when four Shaolin monks in training who all happen to be brothers look forward to the point when they can be inducted by their teacher into the highest status in their temple, though for now that will have to wait. As they have a tendency to bicker and fight amongst themselves, it takes the oldest, known only as Big Brother (Alexander Lo Rei), to keep them in line and stop them falling out, and one day after breaking up another squabble they are walking on the road that leads to the temple when they see three people heading the other way, and Big Brother is incensed as they do not have permission. This leads to combat, but their teacher steps in and orders the brothers to allow the visitors to pass...

Although one question that may be at the forefront of your mind when watching this may well be, "Why do all four siblings have Mr Spock eyebrows?" If you can get over this highly particular makeup decision, then you would be treated to what looked as if the director was doing his own making up: making up for the fact that there was the tiniest degree of plot here, that was, therefore it was substituted with acres of actors (and actresses) beating each other up in as acrobatic a fashion as they could possibly muster. Which if you were a fan of the more traditional kung fu flick out of Hong Kong before the New Wave really kicked in, would be all you wanted to hear before diving straight in.

This style of action moviemaking has never gone away in the Far East, but there are those fans of the vintage material who prefer the way they used to do it before the computer effects took precedent in bringing those trickier concepts to the screen. Not that effects were out of the question even in the older examples, it's just that it would have been more the use of wires to hold up the cast as they soared through the air, or speeding up the footage if you were on lesser resources, that took precedent. In this case, the action, co-created by Lo Rei, came so thick and fast that you wouldn't be too bothered that it was a shade too low budget to realise its ambitions, even though it built to a fine sequence between him and Eagle Han Ying.

The trouble with that being you might have been anticipating something rather more visually striking rather than, er, physically striking, especially as the characters had been bigging up the appearance of a great Shaolin Temple the brothers have spent most of the movie heading towards. Not to spoil anything, but the tourist industry wouldn't have been making a mint with what we did see. Anyway, you didn't mind too much when all the biffing and bashing that led up to the climax was so plentiful, and not just Chinese boxing either as the choreography also included weaponry such as swords and even arrows being dodged mid-air or knocked off their trajectory mid-flight. You could not deny you were offered your money's worth.

As to that plot, the reason our four heroes were off on that excursion was down to their head monk being offed by a combination of kung fu and the lesser known breasts fu, as he is so shocked at being flashed by a female warrior (Jin Nu Ri) that he is knocked off balance and succumbs to a fatal blow. Nevertheless, he does manage to impart the important message that the brothers must take a McGuffin to that temple across country to save the day before he expires, so dutifully off they go, hoping for a chance to seek vengeance along the way. Meanwhile, their evil uncle (Ying, who started the action with an extremely bendy example of his athletic prowess) is placing bad guys in their path, though as if that wasn't enough the brothers contend with a gang of coffin-bursting ghosts in one sequence, apropos of nothing. Also along for the walk is their cousin Ah Mae (Lee Eun-suk) who takes care of them as they succumb to various ills, and is also handy for saving when things get hairy. All in all, calling Hero of Shaolin action-packed was almost underplaying just how frenetic it was.

Aka: Wu seng, Ninja vs. Shaolin Guard
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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