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  Odd Couple Bothers In Arms
Year: 1979
Director: Sammo Hung
Stars: Sammo Hung, Lau Kar-wing, Bryan Leung Kar-Yan, Mars Cheung Wing-Fat, Dean Shek, Billy Chan, Lam Ching Ying, Yuen Miu, Chung Fat, Huang Ha, Yeung Sai Gwan, Peter Chan Lung, Karl Maka, Che Wing-ming, Ho Pak-Kwong, Tai San, Chan Ling Wai
Genre: Comedy, Martial Arts, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The odd couple might suggest a pair of friends, but the King of Sabres (Sammo Hung) and the King of Spears (Lau Kar-wing) are anything but, they've pitted themselves against one another for decades, obsessed with returning to a sacred shrine year after year to prove which one is the better fighter. Their renown has spread across the land, though King of Sabres is a mischievous sort just as likely to pit two innocent men against themselves in combat as he is to indulge in combat himself. Both have made their enemies, but their personal rivalry beats all, even if when asked, they would have a hard time remembering why they fight...

Odd Couple is not to be confused with The Odd Couple (note the lack of the definite article), the Neil Simon comedy that secured Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as a comedy team to be reckoned with back in the late nineteen-sixties. This was produced almost ten years later, and while it was a comedy too, it featured action that Lemmon and Matthau, for all their skills, would not have been able to match. If you feel like amusing yourself in a minor reverie, imagine the duo in kung fu weapons combat and you would have some idea of how different the Hollywood and Hong Kong film industries really were for around a hundred years.

The stars here were the producers too, along with Karl Maka, a pal of them both who would later find fame across Asia in the Mad Mission/Aces Go Places series of adventure comedies. They wanted to prove they could branch out on their own away from the major studios in Hong Kong, so established an independent company to produce their pet projects; as it was, there were only three films made by them, and Odd Couple was the one that by far has lasted in the consciousness of martial arts buffs. Although the comedy was never going to be for all tastes, you could not deny that the fighting was extraordinary, even a step up from the glory days of swordplay movies.

Certainly Sammo, as director, sped up his camera in some shots of attack to render them more dynamic, and you might say he overdid it somewhat in places, but for the most part there was plenty to impress the audience here once things grew violent. The plot meditated fairly lightly on the pointlessness of grudges and returning over the same ground so often that you cannot really recall why you are bothering, as King of Sabres decides that he and King of Spears should recruit students, one each, to be trained and prove who is the best by demonstrating what they have learned in weapon-to-weapon skirmishes. The pointlessness of this is not, however lost on the two men they choose to be their reluctant students.

In a strange way, this was an examination of how longstanding grudges can be propagated, and why life would be so much easier if we forgot about the battles of the past and tried to build a better tomorrow. What was even more curious was that the protegees were played by Sammo and Lau (billed here as Bruce Lau in a belated attempt to continue the Bruce Lee bandwagon), except Sabres' student was Lau and Spears' was Sammo, without the old age makeup. Therefore you had Sammo using his own techniques and also using Lau's as the other character, and vice versa, an insanely complicated set-up that they achieved with enormous aplomb. It was only the humour that let it down, not so offensive this time around for a Sammo flick, but Dean Shek's turn summed up why Hong Kong comedies may not travel too well when you're wondering why this martial arts movie suddenly got so off-putting and weird halfway through. Nevertheless, it was all part of the texture of the piece, and aficionados could not afford to miss the melees. Music by Frankie Chan.

[Eureka release this title on Blu-ray with these special features:

Limited Edition O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling | Original Cantonese mono audio | Optional English dubbed audio | Optional English Subtitles | Brand new feature length audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) and martial artist / actor Robert "Bobby" Samuels | Brand new feature length audio commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema | Archival interview with director Lau Kar-wing | Archival interview with Bryan "Beardy" Leung Kar-yan | Trailers | PLUS: A Limited-Edition collector's booklet featuring new writing by James Oliver.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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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.

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