Chinatown Kid (唐人街功夫小子) features leads that aren’t singularly valiant. But this 1977 Shaw Brothers flick is still very much all about shirtless kung-fu action.
Chinatown Kid Synopsis
Headstrong Tan Tung is forced to flee to San Francisco after an ugly encounter with Hong Kong underworld hooligans. There, he finds work as an illegal kitchen staff in a restaurant, and befriends Yang Chien-Wen, an undergraduate working part-time to pay for his tuition. Before long, Tan Tung gets into trouble again but this time, his slick kung-fu catches the attention of White Dragon, a local gangster chief. White Dragon thereafter manipulates Tan Tung into being his lackey. The naïve youngster soon becomes the Dragon’s most feared executor.
I watched this Shaw Brothers martial arts classic on a Sunday evening several weeks ago, after setting aside the DVD for several weeks.
Truth be told, while I was once deeply fascinated by the many kung-fu productions of this legendary Hong Kong studio, recent viewings of their classics have largely been disappointing. As slick as the action always is, kung-fu choreography that impresses even today, story and characterisations are uniformly flat. Everything seems for the purpose of facilitating a never-ending series of fights too. In some cases, the plot even gets downright absurd or culturally/religiously disrespectful. Just so as to generate reason for yet another confrontation.
Compared to the rest, Chinatown Kid is a slight cut above its siblings, largely thanks to more complex character developments of its two leads. That said, many parts of the story are still tenuous, particularly the segments involving Alexander Fu Sheng’s rather instantaneous transformation from hero to villain, and back. I find it quite impossible to believe he couldn’t tell he was being bamboozled.
As for the action, well, Alex delivers his usual package of slick, charisma-infused deadliness, while Sun Chien, when he finally gets down to it, is an absolute tank of brutality. The short of it, this 1977 martial arts flick is at the moment, one of the better Shaw Brothers productions I’ve watched this year, although it certainly doesn’t “win” by a large margin. I’d like to add too that while I found the San Francisco sets comically fake, somehow, they added a surreal storytelling flair. It was like watching a stage performance. (One not too unlike this other Alexander Fu movie)
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