Turn Back The Clock
The Head Hunter / Ninja Champion
Distributed By: East West DVD
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
At the risk of revealing my age here, how many of you readers out there remember the 3’o’Clock Movie, also affectionately known as Black Belt Theater, that used to air every Saturday on Channel 5. This is long before the channel became FOX TV, so if you never experienced television before FOX TV, forget racking your brain, you just aren’t old enough. My brother and I used to love to watch these movies which featured movies from Korea, China and Japan. The films we loved best were the martial arts classics starring Bruce Lee, Gordon Liu, Chiang Sheng, Leung Kar Yan and a host of others. The cheesy lines, the crazy fight scenes, repetitive fight sequences, the horrible dubbing – we loved every minute and would act out the movies after they were done…much to our parents’ chagrin. Thus, when I saw a special double feature DVD containing the movies The Head Hunter and Ninja Champion, nostalgia took over and I just had to buy it.
The Head Hunter, otherwise known as Lie Tou (aka: The Long Goodbye), features the action film legend Chow Yun Fat. You might remember him from the films The Replacement Killers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Head Hunter is an early role for Chow Yun Fat, released in March, 1982. Chow Yun Fat portrays Nguyen Dich, a Vietnamese war veteran who finds opportunity in Hong Kong as a movie demolitions expert by day, hitman by night. His hitman duties repay his debt to his sponsors for bringing him to Hong Kong and Nguyen hopes will some day allow him to transport his whole family there. Unfortunately, his sponsors and an old enemy from Vietnam have very different plans for him.
The Head Hunter is classic Hong Kong movie fare. The lines are stilted, the story is somewhat weak, the women are somewhat whiney…and yet, I still found a way to enjoy this cheesy flick. There is very little here in the martial arts department. The Head Hunter is more of a shoot ‘em up and slash ‘em sort of film. As a hitman with morals, Chow Yun Fat gives a performance just short, but somewhat reminiscent of his character in The Replacement Killers. The ending came as a surprise to me – I never expected it, but somehow, it made sense.
Ninja Champion is just what the cheesy karate flick fan ordered. The plot is absolutely insane. A young woman named Rose (Nancy Chang) and her suitor, George (Jack Lam), are camping in the woods when they are suddenly attacked. Rose is brutally raped by the three attackers and George later leaves her, causing Rose to lose all trust in men. Hurt and angry, Rose becomes determined to hunt down her attackers and make them pay the ultimate price for their sin. Now an INTERPOL agent, George, still in love with Rose, is determined to help her find peace. Their paths lead them directly in the middle of a huge smuggling ring, which, incidentally is run by a ninja master. Another INTERPOL agent deals with him…but that’s a side plot that goes way beyond explanation.
As I said earlier, the plot is insane…and so is the dialogue. This is not a direct quote, but it’s close enough:
Rose: You left me when I needed you most, so I will kill you as soon as I finish killing the others.
George: Heh! Well, I’ve changed my mind.
Rose: You can help me if you like, but I’ll still kill you.
See what I mean? At one point, Agent Donald is told that the rapists have some sort of connection to the diamond ring. It takes this stellar agent several seconds to process this thought…no wonder these guys have been getting away with this stuff. Then, he suddenly exclaims: Wait! Are you saying there’s a connection between Rose’s attackers and the diamond smuggling ring?! DUH!
The action scenes are rather weird as well. Fights take place seemingly out of nowhere. Ninjas fight for no reason other than to have a fight scene in the middle of the movie. Weapons amazingly appear out of nowhere for these ninjas. Even George has a fight scene in which he teleports in and out of the fight scene – who knew he was a ninja? Nothing ever indicated this. In fact, nothing is ever said about this ability throughout the rest of the movie. It’s almost as if the scene never existed. Weird, but such was the way of this film’s director Godfrey Ho, who used cut and paste editing for his martial arts action films. No wonder why the fight scenes made very little sense.
By the end, we discover that we have been totally duped. George vows to never leave Rose’s side again, but how exactly is he going to keep that promise? If I explained, I’d give up the end of the movie and there are probably enough cheesy martial arts film fans out there who are gonna want to see Ninja Champion.
I watched this double feature in one day, satisfying my need for cheesy action films for weeks to come. However, I’m sure the urge to watch more of these flicks will return soon…Now, where did I put my copy of Five Deadly Venoms?