Monkey Kung Fu (1979)

Genres - Action, Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Release Date - May 5, 1979 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Hong Kong , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Anyone who has fond memories of spending Saturday afternoons watching "Kung Fu Theater" on the t.v. is likely to get a nostalgic kick out of Monkey Kung Fu. It's an effective, prototypical example of the kind of martial arts programmer that genre fans adore. The plot is simple but sturdy stuff that mixes some amusingly mismatched heroes, colorful villains and exotic styles of martial arts (including the requisite sequence where the heroes train in a monastic setting). It's familiar stuff but it's the good kind of familiar, dished up with enthusiasm and good cheer. Monkey Kung Fu also benefits from strong lead performances: Tony Ching Siu-Tung shows both dazzling physical skills and natural comic timing as the neer-do-well hero and Hau Chiu Sing makes an excellent foil for him, acting as the straight man while also delivering an equal level of fight skills. It's also worth noting that these two stars played a major role in doing the martial arts choreography, which is consistently impressive throughout -- both in its complexity and imagination. Director John Lo Mar handles the story with confidence, maintaining a snappy pace while delivering an array of action setpieces that usually blend humor into the excitement: highlights include a scene where the heroes have to provoke a reluctant ironsmith into breaking a chain that binds them together and a scene where Tony Ching Siu-Tung gets into a fight with a very flexible brothel girl. In short, Monkey Kung Fu is fast-moving, unpretentious fun and a solid bet for kung-fu movie fans.