Dirty Ho (HK 1979)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 10/4/00
Director: Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung)
Martial Arts Choreography: Liu Chia Liang (Lau Kar Leung)
Cast: Liu Chia Hui (Gordon Liu), Yung Wang Yu, Lo Lieh, Wang Lung, Wilson Tong, cameo by Wei Ying Hung

INCREDIBLE! A brilliant and exhausting tour de force of martial arts mastery from director Liu Chia Liang. With the sole exception of a stupid and rather pointless fight between Wang Yu and the Seven Tigresses, this is a non-stop display of amazing physical skill and grace, and a perfect example of expression through movement. Liu Chia Hui is the emperor's eleventh prince, a cultivated young man who loves art, antiques, and wine. He's also a superb kung fu fighter, although he keeps that a guarded secret. Unfortunately, his brothers are squabbling over who is going to inherit the throne, and a nasty plot unfolds to assassinate the eleventh prince. While on his travels, he meets a hot-headed ruffian named Ho Chi (Yung Wang Yu) and subtly manipulates him to become his disciple. After a series of dazzling and extremely clever kung fu confrontations, Liu is injured and loses the use of his left leg. While he's recovering, he teaches Ho kung fu and the two of them head off to the royal palace to set things straight. There, they run into Lo Lieh and an astonishing fight takes place between him, his two subordinates, Wang Yu, and a one-legged Liu Chia Hui. Utterly amazing. The film ends on a very strange and somewhat unsatisfactory note as we get a freeze frame of Wang Yu getting thrown out of court by Liu. So much for being friends.

This movie features some of the most spectacular martial arts sequences ever captured on film. Liu Chia Liang's intricate choreography and direction is breathtaking, and the physical skills of his performers are simply incredible. It's amazing how much you can tell about the characters simply by the way they move. The film is brimming over with great moments, but the best one has to be the wine fight between Liu Chia Hui and Wang Lung. The intricacy and subtlety of movement is fascinating, perfectly complementing the cleverly subtle dialog. And no one else in the room has a clue that a very serious fight is going down. Absolutely brilliant. Thankfully the print I saw was in glorious widescreen, although the tape had two nasty drop-outs in it causing me to shriek in horror. A definite "must see" for anyone to enjoys kung fu films (or a great way to get someone interested in the genre).