The Tournament (HK 1974)

Rating: **
Review Date: 11/28/09
Cast: Angela Mao, Carter Wong, cameos by Samo Hung, Wilson Tong, Yuen Biao

Angela Mao's Thai boxing film. Against his wishes, the master of a kung fu school allows a student of his to participate in a Thai boxing match in order to earn some money to pay the ransom for a kidnapped girl. Not only does he get beaten, but he dies from his injuries and brings shame upon the name of Chinese kung fu. The other kung fu schools shun the old master and force him to commit suicide for losing face. His daughter is kung fu spitfire Angela Mao, and she and Carter Wong decide to take revenge by learning Thai boxing. This really pisses off the other kung fu schools, but after she pummels them into the ground, they begrudgingly allow her to go on her way. After enough practice, Mao and Wong beat the Thai, and then have to deal with the Thai's revenge for losing face. Geez, does it ever end?

While it's a good looking and well made production from Golden Harvest, the pacing is horribly slow and its attempts to modernize the kung fu genre leave a bad taste. It's also burdened by way too much head shaking and deep sighs. Angela Mao cuts her hair and dresses as a boy when she goes to Thailand, which is a damn shame. She looks much better in traditional kung fu garb and braids than she does with a butch cut and polyester bell bottoms. The traditional fight scenes are pretty good, but it's obvious that everyone is pulling their punches with Angela. The Thai fighting matches are long and boring, and I have no interest in watching a couple of sweaty half-naked guys grabbing at each other. The climax of the film features Angela in the ring (NOT half-naked) facing off with a Thai fighter and ultimately beating him senseless. She holds her own well, but it's not entirely convincing. Neither are Carter Wong's boxing scenes, and he's visually nervous and uncomfortable with them. The boxing matches look raw and unstaged, and both actors fare much better with traditional and more structured kung fu forms. The film works as a curiosity for Angela Mao fans, but isn't overly satisfying.