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  Showdown Outlaws for In-Laws
Year: 1972
Director: Ting Shan-Si
Stars: Jimmy Wang Yu, Cheung Ching-Ching, Ko Fu-Chen, Chiang Pin, Fu Bi-Hui, Lu Ti, Chen Hui-Lou, Li Tso-Yung, Ting Yi-Pao, Wang Feng-Ying, Liang Erh, Liu Li, Chou Shao-Ching, Chu Fei, Hsieh Han, Tsu Po-Lin, Chou Ji-Chi, Kuan Hung
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, Martial Arts, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Liu, an innocent girl held captive and taunted by a brutal military unit, warns the leader there is a tiger loose in the mountains. That 'tiger' turns out to be badass Fong Shao-Ching (Jimmy Wang Yu) who uses his kung fu jump-cut technique to make quick work of the evil soldiers, saving Liu just as the camp is raided by masked bandits. This riles up Fong, a distinguished member of the righteous White Dragon Society, who having lost his father to the same bandit gang has sworn revenge. Eventually Fong finds refuge for himself and Liu with a seemingly happy-go-lucky mountain community led by innkeepers Mr. and Mrs. Tang and their ageing matriarch Granny (Chen Hui-Lou). Turns out the Tang's strong-willed daughter Hsiang Yen (Cheung Ching-Ching) is actually Fong’s betrothed. At first Hsiang Yen seems less than keen, insisting Fong's arrival is "rude." However Fong's heroic exploits against the bullying military men eventually convince Hsiang Yen he is a worthy suitor. So Fong marries Hsiang Yen, only to be stunned when in the midst of the wedding ceremony she and the rest of the villagers pull a shocking reveal.

Showdown has to be one of the strangest Jimmy Wang Yu vehicles. A fairly conventional start centred on Jimmy's familiar lone wolf heroics then abruptly gives way to wacky Benny Hill style comedy, complete with fast-motion slapstick and yakkity sax (!), alongside folksy, whimsical scenes observing rural village life; coming across like a cross between Amarcord (1973) and House of 72 Tenants (1973). Then out of nowhere the plot springs a major twist that threatens to catapult the film and Fong Shao-Ching's predicament into Wicker Man (1973) territory! Spoiler warning... turns out not only is every man, woman, child and elderly person a martial arts master, they all belong to the same bandit gang that murdered Fong's father. Now that Fong is married to Hsiang Yen, who was in on the ruse, strict regional customs forbid him from arresting them or exacting revenge. Instead he must obey his in-laws every word. Granny, whose unexpected badassery underlines why legendary stuntman and choreographer Chen Hui-Lou was cast in the role, even sneers contemptuously at Fong's 'pathetic', 'inferior' kung fu. Ouch.

Unfortunately as good as it is the twist ties the plot in a knot. Now rendered impotent Fong can only stand idly by while his hot-tempered wife and frankly tiresomely belligerent in-laws run rings around various rival gangs and the local militia. There is a big emphasis on propriety, social etiquette and familial loyalty that likely resonates with the more traditionally minded section of a Chinese audience but will prove tiresome and frustrating to almost everybody else. Worse yet prolific and versatile Taiwanese auteur Ting Shan-Si, who collaborated multiple times with Jimmy Wang Yu on films like Furious Slaughter (1972), Knight Errant (1973), starry international caper Queen's Ransom (1976) and gory supernatural adventure The Beheaded 1000 (1994), ruins otherwise tense dramatic scenes with slapstick antics and more of that silly fast-motion. Eventually the film has to come up with a whole other gang of bandits in order to give fans what they wanted to see in the first place. Which is Jimmy Wang Yu once again re-enacting Seven Samurai all by himself. Seriously Granny, how pathetic can his kung fu be if he is able to fight off an entire army single-handed?

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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