Bad Acting and worse Bad Screenplay
In truth, there is barely enough story here to make a film.
To all those who have watched it: I hope you enjoyed it as much as I do.
The movie turns out to be a little better than the average. Starting from a romantic formula often seen in the cinema, it ends in the most predictable (and somewhat bland) way.
If you, like me, are something of an ardent fan of Chinese, martial arts films from their heyday (the 60s & 70s), then this 2003 documentary (appropriately called "Chop Socky") should be of some special interest to you.Through interviews with Hong Kong movie directors, film historians, and actors (such as Jackie Chan, and Jet Li), as well as endless film clips of Chinese marital arts movies of yesterday, the viewer soon learns (amongst other things) all about the painstaking work involved in choreographing the amazing, synchronized sword fights, etc. that were showcased in many of these action-packed pictures.Always using gallons of fake blood, along with some rapid-fire film editing, these ultra-violent pictures featured story-lines that, often enough, played out very much like heavy-duty, Bejing operas.Narrated by Jim Nicholson, Chop Socky had a very brief running time of only 55 minutes.
This should have been a good 1/2 hour longer. Much of the story was left untold and in that way is slightly misleading. Many clips were not properly attributed and there was a tendency to return to films that were already discussed and passed when the film makers clearly had a larger choice of films to choose from.A few notes:It was great to see the really strange magic kung fu films from the silent eras and some black and white scenes that never made it to the states. The "palm power" animated, sword fights were insane. However, the actor who portrayed Wong Fei- Hung was the great Tak-Hing Kwan. His name is never credited as far as I was able to tell. This is like showing clips of Errol Flynn or Humphrey Bogart and never mentioning their name.Much time is spent on director Chang Cheh with many clips from his brutal historical dramas but no mention is made of his "Five Venom" series of films. Strangely when a clip is shown from Five Deadly Venoms (uncredited), it is dismissively used as a lead in to Bruce Lee's revolutionary new style of film fighting! This is despite the fact that Five Deadly Venoms was filmed at least 5 years after Mr. Lee's passing. The way I've heard it, Lee's film fighting was a reaction to the highly stylized and abstract Peking Opera based fighting of the 60's (King Hu's films for example). It was also a reaction to the many Hong Kong cinema attempts to imitate the fighting style of the Japanese sword films (something Chang Cheh was guilty of). Lee introduced a dynamic and uniquely Chinese way of film fighting. The films that came after Lee, especially those from the Shaw studios, were a reaction to Lee's fight scenes which featured him endlessly defeating mobs of inferior opponents. The late 70's films from Hong Kong had matched opponents in extended, sophisticated battles to the death. Which is better is not the point.Director Liu Chia-Liang (Lau Kar-Leung) is interviewed, which was great to see, but his films are never given the importance they are due. "36th Chamber of Shaollin" (Master Killer) is probably the most influential film after the Lee films. Besides being a box office success where ever Hong Kong films were shown, the film is probably the best known in the United States from repeated showings on TV. Interestingly "Dirty Ho" is called one of the best Hong Kong martial art films ever but neither Liu or the lead actor Liu Chia-Hui (Gordon Liu) are asked about the film. However since it's almost impossible to see interviews from these men any where, it's hard to complain. Plus some of the things they said were very interesting.Finally, Jet Lee is brought up and interviewed but it seems that his start in the Mainland China film industry is not considered important. A lot of fuss is made about Jacky Chan's Peking Opera background but Jet Li's as interesting Wu Shu performance background is not mentioned. A point that could have been made was that the classic Hong Kong kung fu film genre had fizzled by 1985, so much so that the Shaws closed their studio and went into real estate. Jacky Chan was making contemporary stunt actioners at this time. It was only the fact that the kung fu genre was growing in Mainland with Jet Li as the main superstar that the new wave was able to take hold.All in all, a reasonable documentary and some fun to watch. Could have done without the Kill Bill footage. For your information, this particular documentary is a re- edit for the U.S. market of a longer multi-part documentary series.
This documentary from IFC is a very good over view of Hong Kong martial arts cinema, unfortunately its much too short to really give you anything but a taste of the wonders of the genre. Don't get me wrong this is very good,and you should see it, you'll just find the end credits rolling wanting to know and see more, more on the history of the genre and more of the films.Ultimately its a quibble and more than likely you'll find yourself surfing the web to find copies of some the films shown, although I do warn anyone searching for some of the titles, many are on cheap knock off dvds and do not look nearly as good as the prints shown here.A very good, if brief look at a cinema long in need of a proper overview.8 out of 10(You may want to try and find Cinema of Vengeance a 1994 documentary which is more detailed and compliments this film nicely)
What's not to like about this incredible hour long documentary about the genesis of the Hong Kong martial arts film? Filled with great interviews (Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Cheng Pei Pei, Jet Li, John Woo, David Chiang, and others), amazing archival footage from the '20s and '40s, a black and white TV interview with Bruce Lee, and an astounding array of mind-boggling letterboxed and subtitled clips from the golden age of martial arts cinema, Chop Socky is one of the best film documentaries you're likely to see. As an extra added bonus, this made in Hong Kong film eschews the obligatory interview sequence with annoying motormouth Quentin Tarantino, who has to settle for two brief clips from Kill Bill Volume 2. The inclusion of these clips is a minor quibble (I lowered my rating from 10 to 9 as a result) and shouldn't put you off. This film keeps the focus where it belongs--the Chinese speaking creators of this remarkable genre.