Return of the Master Killer (1980)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong  |  
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This surprisingly lighthearted sequel to The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is one of the best films to emerge from Hong Kong's "kung-fu comedy" craze of the late '70s and early '80s. The clever script parallels all the plot points of that classic (hero is disgraced, undergoes arduous training, and returns home for a triumphant battle with his enemies), but sets them on their ear by making the hero of the film a lazy, scheming layabout who is always looking for the short cut to power and glory. As a result, these key plot points are given a deliciously witty spin, especially the scenes in which the hero tries to bluff his way through Shaolin training. Return to the 36th Chamber further benefits from a charismatic performance by Gordon Liu, who throws out the intense dramatics of his work in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin for a witty performance that blends tongue-in-cheek melodramatics with a sharp skill for slapstick humor. The end result is a performance that is as touching as it is funny; his best moment is the transformation from depression to childlike joy at the moment when he realizes all his servant work at the Shaolin temple actually gave him the skills needed to be a kung-fu master. The film's appeal is sealed by Lau Kar-Leung's direction, which plays up the humorous side to the film's action but makes certain that each fight is as taut and skillfully choreographed as the best straight kung-fu film battle. All these elements gel beautifully to create a film that is as exciting as it is funny, and this combination makes Return to the 36th Chamber a delightful shot of fun for any kung-fu film fanatic.