Review Date: 6/24/18
Director: Robert Clouse
Stunt Coordinator: Pat Johnson
Cast: Joe Don Baker, Elizabeth Ashley, Jim Kelly, Roy Chiao, Frances Fong, Burgess Meredith, cameo by Richard Ng
A Hong Kong crime boss named Lin Toa (Roy Chiao) steals a priceless golden statue on behalf of an American businessman played by Burgess Meredith. Unfortunately, Meredith's courier Felicity (Elizabeth Ashley) betrays him and hires a street punk named Dan Mason (Joe Don Baker) to steal the statue for her. Chaos ensues as both Toa and Meredith will stop at nothing to get their hands on the statue, which supposedly has mystical life regenerating properties. Jim Kelly and Frances Fong show up to lend Dan a hand and keep him alive.
Director Robert Clouse tried on many occasions to repeat the success of "Enter The Dragon" (1973), but never came anywhere close. This really makes you question his effectiveness as a director, and how much "Enter The Dragon" owed to its stars (and Bruce Lee in particular). Was "Enter The Dragon" just a fluke? Did Clouse just get lucky with the perfect combination of talent? Or did Bruce Lee actually direct the film instead of Clouse, as many speculate? "Golden Needles" has the exact same look and feel, the same composer and musical tone, the same stunt coordinator, the same cinematographer, the same writing style and characters, and even some of the same actors, but its execution falls woefully short. Joe Don Baker is entertaining as a hot-headed American brawler, and an underutilized Jim Kelly gives a delightful, but disappointingly brief performance. He basically gets one fight scene and then disappears for the rest of the movie. The dignified Roy Chiao is always fun to watch, and a very young Richard Ng shows up as his interpreter. The duplicitous Elizabeth Ashley is supposed to be the film's love interest and sex symbol, but I found her to be annoying and uninteresting. Instead, Frances Fong is the one who really caught my attention as a pretty and perky Hong Kong police officer, and she even gets into a couple of nice fight scenes. While all of the pieces feel like they should add up to be a good film, they somehow fail to come together and the result is a tedious disappointment.