Martial Arts

36 Deadly Styles

Distributed by VideoAsia

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            As you know, I am a huge fan of 70s/80s martial arts films and have been searching out the movies I used to watch every Saturday afternoon as a kid.  Since the movies are not always found under the same names, my search has been difficult, but quite fun as I often get to see films that I never got a chance to check out in my youth.  My latest purchase: 36 Deadly Styles.

            The action in this film begins right away as Wai Chi (Cheung Lik) is nearly killed fighting murderous thugs alongside his uncle in the woods.  They seek shelter in a Buddhist Temple, where as luck would have it, Huang (Yeung Chak Lam), an old friend of Wi Chiís uncle, is in residence.  The thugs somehow get inside the temple, but are fought off by Huang.  Unfortunately, Wai Chiís uncle dies and Huang takes it upon himself to look after Wai Chi. 

            Wai Chi is young and impetuous, frustrating Huang to no end with his antics at the temple.  He puts him to work at various tasks, attempting to build up Wai Chiís strength, but Wai Chi balks at the jobs his mentor gives him, believing them to be petty tasks.  His rebellious attitude and carefree ways bring him closer to a soy milk saleswoman named Yu Ti (Jeannie Chang) and her father (Fan Mei Sheng). 

            Unbeknownst to Wai Chi, Yu Tiís father knows exactly who Wai Chi and his mentor are and why they are being harassed by Mien Tsu Mun (Chan Lau) and his gang.  Years ago, Wai Chiís father used one of the 36 Deadly Styles and accidentally killed the brother of Silver Fox (Hwang Jang Lee).  From that day, he and his family were hunted by Silver Fox.  They all went their separate ways and were hunted down one by one.  Only by helping Wai Chi perfect his knowledge and application of the 36 Deadly Styles can they ever hope to defeat the Silver Fox and live in peace.

            Meanwhile, another member of Silver Foxís clan (Mark Long) is hunting down Master Keung Wu Chun (Jack Long), the last person known to have the 36 Deadly Styles Manual in their possession.  Can Keung Wu Chun escape the encounter with his life, or will there be another meaningless death at the hands of the 36 Deadly Styles?

            Now, I love a movie that starts out with a great fight scene, but the one that opens 36 Deadly Styles is a tad confusing.  Fans of these films know right away who the good guys are and who the bad guys are simply because weíve watched enough of these films.  It is very rare for Chan Lau to portray a good guy, so we know that Cheung Lik is playing the good guy in this film.  But we have no idea why he and his uncle are being chased or why anyone would want them dead until the movie is almost over.  It is through the memory flashbacks of Yu Tiís father that we finally learn why Silver Fox is hunting everyone related to Wai Chi down.

            The side storyline is confusing to say the least - two martial arts masters facing off over the 36 Deadly Styles Manual in a battle that has nothing to do with Wai Chiís fight with the exception of the use of the 36 Deadly Styles martial arts isÖwell, itís enough to throw one for a loop.

            Despite the storyline issues, I loved the fight scenes for the simple fact that I was introduced to so many different styles in one film.  There was snake, cripple, madman, crane, Buddhist fist, tiger and so much more in this film.  The fight scene were very well choreographed.  I also enjoyed how the movie tied the various moves Wai Chi used in the final battle with things he had picked up along the way at the temple and through the teachings of Yu Tiís father.

            The film also leaves one with some nagging questions: What is the Secret Style?  If Wai Chi and his family were well versed in the 36 Deadly Styles, why is it that none of them know what the Secret Style is?  Are the fighters Silver Fox is hunting down and murdering actually relatives of Wai Chi or just fellow clansmen?  If they are family, does that make Yu Ti his cousin?  And whatís up with those weird dreadlocks on Bolo Yeungís head?

            While youíll get none of these questions answered by watching 36 Deadly Styles, I would still recommend the film to any fan of the old martial arts movies.  It has everything any old school martial arts movie fan could ask for: a cool, handsome hero fighter with awesome moves, a pretty chick who can kick some ass, awesome fight scenes, tremendous acrobatics, silly humor mixed with intense drama and more.  Iím more than happy to add 36 Deadly Styles to my martial arts movie collection.


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