Turn Back The Clock
Martial Arts Movie Review
Distributed by Xenon Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I love watching martial arts films, especially the older ones from the Black Belt Theatre days of my youth. One of my favorite actors in these films is Leung Kar Yan. Not only is he gorgeous with his twinkling with mischief eyes, flowing hair, chiseled body and his perfectly groomed beard, but this guy could perform just about any martial arts technique out there and make it look like he’d been practicing it for years. I have a collection of Leung Kar Yan films and just got hold of the digitally remastered Thundering Mantis.
In this film, Leung Kar Yan is Ah Chi, a cocky young man who works for a fish salesman while learning martial arts from a local teacher. Tired of watching members from the evil Jade Horse Gang push around the local merchants in his village, Ah Chi takes three of them on and teaches them a lesson. Unfortunately, this earns him the attention of the Jade Horse Gang who vow to take revenge. His rash behavior and stubbornness force his master to expel him from their school.
During all of this, Ah Chi meets and befriends a mischievous young street performer (Wong Yat Lung) and his grandfather Chow Tung (Chien Yuet San). When the Jade Horse Gang thugs attack them as well, Ah Chi takes it upon himself to defend them, much to the grandfather’s chagrin. Angered at Ah Chi’s interference, Chow Tung forbids him to come near him again. Ah Chi later learns that this man is a master of the Mantis Fist style and asks him to teach it to him. Chow Tung refuses, but later relents after Ah Chi is almost beaten to death by the Jade Fist Gang’s leader, Boss Hsia (Eddie Kao).
While Ah Chi secretly learns from Chow Tung, Boss Hsia hunts him down, vowing to destroy him. Hsia decides that if Ah Chi won’t join his gang and persists on standing in the way of his operation, then those he loves will suffer at the hands of the Jade Horse Gang. Attacking all he holds dear, the Jade Horse Gang drive Ah Chi to madness…an act they will soon learn to regret.
Thundering Mantis is one of those martial arts flicks that have two sides - one silly, the other serious. The movie starts out on a light note, with the silly antics of the cocky Ah Chi and the street performer. But as the movie progresses and things with the Jade Horse Gang become more complicated, it seems that Ah Chi must do some maturing. Thus, the movie begins to become more serious. What starts off as some silly behavior becomes a lesson in the human psyche and how much it can withstand before it breaks with reality.
Some of the silly parts I could do without, like the scene in which the kid drugs the thugs and makes them run to the bathroom. The first part of the scene was funny, but the repetitiveness was a bit over the top and unnecessary. I laughed in the beginning, but stopped laughing after the third time the thugs ran to the bathroom. I also disliked some of the dubbing. Why do many of the characters speak with cockney British accents? And it’s usually the silly characters that speak with these accents…I just don’t get it.
Other than that, this movie has some incredible fight scenes featuring Leung Kar Yan, Chien Yuet San, Eddie Kao and even little Wong Yat Lung shows off his martial arts prowess by offering up some drunken mantis fist. The fight scenes are long, but unlike in other films, these scenes are not repetitive. Each fight is choreographed differently and the filmmakers decided to stay away from re-using pre-filmed scenes. Instead, each fight scene is authentic and new and very believable. If you watch carefully, you will notice quite a few different styles being used in this film, making for some rather interesting battles.
Despite the silliness of the beginning of the film, Thundering Mantis becomes a very serious film towards the end with tons of action and some rather intense scenes that really aren’t suitable for the young ones. I love Thundering Mantis and have watched it dozens of times already. The digitally re-mastered version is one of the best in visual quality and sound that I have ever scene. Any fan of martial arts films of the 1980s will definitely enjoy watching Thundering Mantis.