Two years after ENTER THE DRAGON, Brian Trenchard-Smith brought Australia their own Hong Kong co-production of a martial arts extravaganza. Jimmy Wang Yu (the One-Armed Swordsman himself) plays Inspector Fang, the man of the title, and he is a hell of a man. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him actually, he looks like kind of a dweeb, but throughout the course of the movie he will prove it. He is The Man from Hong Kong.
An Australian cop undercover as a tourist busts 22-year-old Sammo Hung (also the fight choreographer) during a drug deal. Inspector Hung is called in from Hong Kong to extradite Sammo. The two cops in charge of the case (including Hugh Keays-Byrne, Toecutter from MAD MAX) want Fang following Australian law, not trying to pull any shit, but they make the mistake of leaving him alone in the interrogation room with Sammo. This leads to a full-on close quarters kung fu battle. Not cool. But he gets a lead out of it.
The Australians want Fang to get his ass out of Australia quick, but for some reason he’s intent on using his unorthodox ways and what not to climb his way up the totem pole to rich Australian kung fu expert, playboy, criminal mastermind and expert party-thrower George Lazenby. In one scene he does the William Tell routine with a lady friend, which is movie code for “hey man this guy is decadent.” Another sign of his decadence: he has an open fireplace in the middle of a room in his mansion. No sides on it, just a fire right there. Before the Man From Hong Kong is through with him I think he regrets that sort of flamboyant interior design. It’s like that evil nurse chick in TRANSPORTER 2 having spikes on the wall in her living room. You evil fuckers gotta start thinking these things through better, it’s just not safe to live like that if somebody’s gonna come fight you in your place of residence. Also if you have kids would be another reason to avoid the spikes or open flames. And put those little plugs on all the electrical outlets.
Anyway, maybe decadence rubs Fang the wrong way or something, so he’ll stop at nothing to take out Lazenby. He basically spends most of the movie chasing people and then beating the hell out of them.
I probaly shouldn’t have brought up ENTER THE DRAGON, because this isn’t as slick as that one. Like most kung fu movies of the era it’s pretty crude, the story is silly and Fang’s dialogue is pretty laughable (“Hey – don’t give me any SHIT!”). There’s also about four too many white characters making comments about the color yellow and one too many where a white lady pulls the sides of her eyes out as a cute comment about Asians.
But what makes this movie great is that it has about twelve times more action than most action movies. Okay, so the hang-gliding scenes may go on a little too long. But it’s a movie with foot chases, climbing up the sides of buildings, motorcycle jumps, various vehicles going off ledges, a van that blows up three times, a chain fight on top of an elevator, a skyscraper rapelling scene, and more. During the car chase Lazenby’s car drives right through a house and keeps going, so Fang has to catch up with him and ram his car so hard it splits in half like a fortune cookie. (that’s not some racial comment, fortune cookie just fits what happens better than, say, wishbone or something.)
You get used to movies where you’re waiting for a fight or a chase to happen, and when it does you get excited but it’s over before you know it. THE MAN FROM HONG KONG does not believe in that type of bullshit. THE MAN FROM HONG KONG believes in fight after stunt after chase after long-ass fight. I knew I had rented well early on when Fang chased a suspect through the streets, caught up with him in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant, had a long fight involving various cooking utensils and ingredients, then moved to the restaurant where they proceeded to destroy many dinners, tables, chairs and dishes as well as their own clothes. His opponent actually splits the ass of his jeans and you can see that he’s wearing yellow underwear. And that is long before the fight is over.
That’s my favorite fight but it’s only one of many. There’s also the “kung fu demonstration” at Lazenby’s backyard barbecue where he ends up fighting all of the henchmen and destroying all of the snacks and only has to leave when a bow and arrow gets involved. Or the scene where he sneaks into a martial arts academy at night but for some reason every member of the dojo is there and he has to fight all of them at the same time. They should actually have to pay him for lessons because they get a real workout and get a chance to try out every weapon they have on hand.
I mean, this guy beats up a whole lot of people. At one point one of the cops complains that Australia has a small population and that Fang is working through all of them.
But he’s got some Shaft in him too. The movie takes place over a few days but he meets, falls in love with and beds two different Australian ladies. One of them gets blown up, the other one teaches him how to hang glide.
There are plenty of more artful martial arts movies out there, and where it is more convincing that everybody is hitting each other every time. This doesn’t compare to, say, the best Shaw Brothers movies. But the story of an arrogant asshole tearing his way through Australia with no regard for the law, ethics, strategy, manners or common sense is pretty hilarious, and the action is so relentless and down and dirty that you gotta love it.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.