Hero Of Swallow (HK 1996)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/17/16
Cast: Yuen Biao, Eddy Ko, Tsui Kam Long, Athena Chu

Li San (Yuen Biao) is an infamous criminal known as Swallow Thief, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor and needy. He's also on a personal mission to rescue his girlfriend Chinny (impossibly pretty Athena Chu), who was raped and sold to a brothel in Peking several years before. Unfortunately, even his superb kung fu skills aren't enough to save her, and what started as a lighthearted action film gives way to an unexpectedly downbeat ending.

It's a surprising blend of classic kung fu with new wave HK film making techniques. Yuen Biao is as charming and nimble as ever, and the kinetic fight scenes are swift, flashy, and energetic. Veteran Eddy Ko is a welcome sight, but he looks like he was doubled for some of the more aggressive scenes. There's also a female character named Fuwa who gets into some entertaining fights, but they're played mostly for laughs. Athena Chu is breathtakingly beautiful, and it's a shame that she's reduced to such a simple window dressing role. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the rich colors remind me of why I fell in love with Hong Kong cinema in the first place. While it's not a top tier production, it's definitely worth a look for fans of the genre.