Shaolin Ex-Monk (HK 1981)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/28/00
Alternate Title: Renegade Monk
Cast: John Liu, Wong Hang Sau

For kung fu buffs only. This somewhat tiresome film is little more than a kung fu showcase for leg fighter John Liu. A poor orphan is in love with the beautiful daughter (Wong Hang Sau) of a rich man, and spends the first thirty minutes of the film being beaten by the old man as a warning to stay away from her. Just when the angry father is about to hang the young man, John Liu comes to town and saves him. Liu is the sheriff from a nearby county and he's looking for a notorious bandit who committed a horrible crime five years ago. The orphan decides to help him find the bad guys if in return Liu teaches him kung fu. And so the film progresses as Liu investigates and the orphan practices kung fu. Eventually the villain frames all of the main characters for murder, and lures Liu and his young pupil into a deadly showdown.

First of all, this film features one of the lamest opening credits sequences I've ever seen. Two and a half minutes of dead silence as white text is displayed over a blank red field. This is then followed by another two and a half minutes of black and white photo cut-outs of the characters animated to a jazzy music score. Utterly dreadful. I also noticed someone in the credits with the title of "probes." I don't even want to think about what that could possibly mean... But after you get past the horrible intro, you're treated with a large helping of very good kung fu. John Liu's legwork is amazing and this film probably represents his best work. Additionally, he stretches his acting wings a little bit and is not nearly as stiff and wooden as the other films I've seen him in. Pretty Wong Hang Sau gets into a couple of nice fights, but that's about it for her. Too bad.