Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1980)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong  |  
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It's easy to understand why Mad Monkey Kung Fu is a big favorite with the kung fu film fandom set. Firstly, the storyline offers the distinctive, unusual blend of lowbrow comedy and high tragedy that is unique to Chinese genre cinema. This combination won't sit well with all viewers, but screenwriter Ni Kuang effectively uses the comedic and tragic elements to offset each other as he builds a storyline that is expansive and ambitious in its own comic-book way. Mad Monkey Kung Fu also offers fun, stylized performances that live up to its outrageous plotline: Lau Kar-leung makes a believably grizzled and embittered master, Lo Lieh excels as an amusingly sleazy villain, and Hsiao Ho shows excellent comedic timing as the raffish but dedicated student. However, the key to the appeal of Mad Monkey Kung Fu is the way it handles the action: since he is functioning as both director and choreographer, Leung makes the filmmaking and action compliment each other in a way that is often breathtaking (particularly during the training scenes and the finale). The end result might be a bit too esoteric for every cinematic palate, but Mad Monkey Kung Fu offers plenty to the kung fu fans for whom it was so obviously made.