Monday, 26 February 2018

Pedicab Driver

Title: Pedicab Driver
Director: Sammo Hung
Released: 1989
Starring: Sammo Hung, Max Mok, Nina Li Chi, Fennie Yuen, Suen Yuet, John Sham, Billy Chow, Lau Kar-Leung, Sun Yueh

Plot: Lo Tung (Hung) and his friend Malted Candy (Mok) are pedicab drivers working in 1930’s Macao while hoping to win the hearts of their respective love interests which soon leads them into unwanted attention from the local gangster Master 5 (Sham)

Review: When I cast my mind back to the early titles which first got me into Martial Arts cinema there are the obvious classics like Jackie Chan’s “Police Story” and Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon” but it was this film which first introduced me to the unlikely superstar Sammo Hung who despite being on first appearances looking like a parody of the traditional kung fu hero with his portly physique but as he proves throughout this film (not to mention his extensive career) he is more than capable of putting together some jaw dropping action scenes which is perhaps one of the reasons this film is held in such high regard by fans of Martial Arts cinema.

Blending comedic slapstick with hard hitting action scenes right from the start as Lo Tung and his friends engage in a tea house brawl with a group of rival pedicab drivers which includes light tubes being branded like lightsabers, while the number of people involved in this opening brawl is quite staggering when you look at how well choreographed the sequence is and only added to further by the brief appearance by Eric Tsang as the cleaver welding restaurant owner.

While the film certainly has it’s comedic elements largely provided by Hung as he battles the lecherous old baker Fang (Yueh) for the affections of Ping (Chi) who works for his aunts bakery. This plot line is perhaps played with alittle too much Benny Hill style humour which does make Ping suddenly falling for Lo Tung more than a little surprising especially when she doesn’t seem to really care for him. The darker elements however come with Malted Candy’s pursuit of Hsiao-Tsui (Yuen) who he doesn’t realise is also a prostitute owned by the gangster Master 5.

Considering how light hearted the film is in the first half its actually quite a shocking switch in tone that the film suddenly takes when it comes to Malted Candy’s romance, which at one point see’s him and his friends throwing drinks at her and generally treating her as being below them, even though she only became a prostitute to pay her sick father’s medical bills and now is trying to buy out her contract. Certainly on the first watch its a jaring shift in tone which does take you out of the film, especially considering how until this point the film has been playing things in a comedic slant.

As problematic as the plotting for the film might be the real draw is the action sequences which unquestionably more than deliver here. For those of you have never seen a Sammo Hung movie this more than showcases his talent with not one but three standout fight sequences for him as the first see’s him battling with poles the head of a gambling house played by another legend Lau Kar-leung who despite being setup for a return in the finale bizarrely never returns. We also get to see him battling Master 5 and his knife welding goons in the finale which also shows him demonstrating his usual surprisingly limber move set which is still jaw dropping to watch and worth watching the film for alone.

For some bizarre reason this film is notoriously difficult to find and only further argues the point for hanging onto so many of my VHS tapes, though why this film has not been given a better release is really quite baffling, especially when so many fans proclaim it as a high point in his career. True it might suffer from some sudden shifts in tone and questionable plotting but the action scenes alone make this one worth taking the effort to hunt down.

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