Flying Guillotine (1975)

Genres - Action, Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Release Date - Feb 18, 1975 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong  |  
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Despite the gimmick inherent in the title of the weapon, Flying Guillotine is no comic-book chop socky. In fact, this a surprisingly serious and dramatic film that values plot and theme as much as it does action. At its heart is a strong script by veteran Shaw Brothers scribe Ni Kuang; some might complain that the script doesn't spend enough time on characterization, but Kuang dishes out his complex plot with verve and an impressive sense of dramatic momentum. He also uses the story to comment on the corrosive nature of power and how an overabundance of ambition can bring out the worst in people. Director Ho Meng-hua keeps the plot rolling in a stylish manner, mounting the film with skill and achieving an impressively epic look. His work shines during the set pieces, the best being a moment where Lau Ng-Kei distracts a group of townspeople with a song-and-dance routine while Chen Kuan-Tai takes on a pair of assassins in a nearby alley. Ho also gets strong performances from his cast: Chen makes an appealing hero and Frankie Wai is easy to hate as his selfish rival. However, the best performance comes from Ku Feng as Xin Feng, a basically decent man who allows fear to drive him to desperate extremes. All in all, Flying Guillotine deserves its reputation as a Shaw Brothers classic and is well worth the time for fans of Chinese action film fare.