Hey folks, one of the best martial arts movies ever made is now readily available for rental. I’d say that’s pretty sweet especially considering the difficulties this film has experienced on its way onto Blockbuster’s shelves.
See, it was slotted for release years ago on Quentin Tarantno’s Rolling Thunder label. That version, which would have been a better presentation, was actually advertised on their release of Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express and then unexpectedly shelved. Unfortunately, it’s languished without a large scale American release ever since. Dimension Home Video remedies this situation partially with this dubbed offering out just in time to capitalize on Jet Li’s upcoming Romeo Must Die.
The original language version is a true genre classic. Featuring the talents of Li, Chin Siu-Ho, Yusuaki Kurata, Billy Chow and Yuen clan choreography there are very few films that have the right mixture of pedigree and execution necessary to even consider themselves in the same league as this powerhouse. It’s also based on the same characters and scenario as Bruce Lee’s The Chinese Connection which adds an interesting bit of perspective on the changes twenty plus years brought both artistically and politically to Hong Kong’s kung fu move circle. Gone is the xenophobic super-patriotism of Lee’s version ("No Dogs or Chinese Allowed") and in it’s place is a much more mature look at the oftentimes tumultuous relationship between the Chinese and Japanese.
I refuse to vouch for the dubbed version, but if that’s all you’ve got available to you then by all means rent it. You may have to turn the sound down, but it’d still be worth it just for the plentiful, creative and sometimes stunning fight scenes.
Originally published in Boston's Weekly Dig (now digBoston) in February 2000.