Odd Couple (1979) — July 20, 2017
Going from Sammo Hung’s early 70s supporting work in something like The Skyhawk to this, made only a few years later, is a trip. No longer held back by co-stars who can’t keep up or unimaginative casting that refuses see him as a lead, the full Sammo is unleashed in the late 70s, first in his own films, then working with like-minded collaborators. Here it’s under the direction of Lau Kar-leung’s younger brother, Lau Kar-wing, who forms with Sammo the eponymous pair, masters of sword and spear who have been dueling annually for 15 years but whose fights always end in a draw. As they’re getting old, they resolve to each train an apprentice and have the two younger men fight. Sammo’s apprentice is played by Lau, and Lau’s apprentice is played by Sammo. Along the way to the showdown they torment Karl Maka and Dean Shek (and with Raymond Wong writing the script and Maka also producing, this is like a test run for Cinema City, though it was produced under Lau and Hung’s joint venture Gar Bo Films). The fun turns deadly in the final third, when Beardy (Bryan Leung, the perfect foil for both these guys) shows up for some revenge and ends up fighting all four of them (but only two at a time, because science).
Enough cannot be said about the stunt work in this film. Sammo and Lau are at their absolute peak and the coordination and the speed of the fights (notably aided at times by undercranking) rivals anything I’ve ever seen. In many respects it’s just a termite variation on Lau Kar-leung’s Dirty Ho, released five days earlier in August of 1979, swapping ornate Shaws’ sets and costumes and real actors and story for the gutter humor and mind-bending athleticism of the stunt crew. By which I mean it’s one of the best kung fu films ever.
Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon (1990) — July 21, 2017
The key figures of Gar Bo Films reunite for a cop movie, with Lau Kar-wing directing Sammo Hung and Karl Maka. Maka’s playing a variation on his Aces Go Places persona, a greedy and horny but ultimately honest and competent cop while Sammo plays his sad sack badass character, mopey and shy with women but capable of beating up everyone in sight. Lau himself plays the villain, hiding behind suit and spectacles for most of the film. The movie’s an indifferent mix of Cinema City tropes: vehicle stunts, woman ogling, gay/trans panic, slapstick humor, police vigilantism. It was apparently called Tiger on the Beat 3 for awhile, but it isn’t as good as either of those movies. Sammo comes off the best, dusting off his surprisingly good Bruce Lee impression for most of the fights (though there’s also a callback to a famous Michael Hui sequence).