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Opium and the Kung Fu Master – Review July 28, 2009

Posted by Cello in Movie Reviews.
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Opium and the Kung-Fu Master is really kind of breezy and playful for the first half of the movie.  However, the film becomes considerably darker turn in its second half, though, starting with a grisly revelation and the blood-spattered suicide that follows. Its goofy, smirking sense of humor vanishes, with grisly imagery of a city addicted taking its place. As the body count continues to rise and the battles escalate in intensity, the gangsters who at first glance seem like bumbling stock villains become a much more ominous, credible threat.

As leader of the Ten Kwangtung Tigers, Master Tieh Chiao-san (Ti Lung) is a well-respected member of his village, who gladly carries the responsibility of training the local men in the ways of kung fu. Unfortunately, he’s also struggling with a growing addiction to opium, which he believes to be a harmless way to pass time with the upper-class members of the town. When a local opium house opens in the heart of the village, nobody realizes the consequences of addiction until it’s too late, and tragedy soon falls on those Tieh considers to be his closest friends.  Realizing that the only hope for his fellow countrymen is to stand up to these thugs, Tieh attempts to shake his addiction long enough to teach these gangsters a painful lesson.

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There were not many good Shaw Brothers films in 1984, with Golden Harvest pretty thoroughly trouncing them at the box office with their bigger budget, more innovative productions. Opium & The Kung Fu Master seems to have been one of the studio’s larger productions of the year, with some big guns in the cast, but still looks very old school. The Wu Tang Clan, the rap artists, always had these awesome samples from movies… I never knew where they were coming from until I watched a Shaw Brothers film for my first time. This is also one of the first old school kung-fu films to come to blu-ray format. I have seen Shaw Brothers films on DVD and VHS, neither of which being anywhere near the quality of this Blu-Ray!

If you like Kung Fu, you’ll love Opium and the Kung-Fu Master! If you smoke opium and its effects have been a newfound laziness… Go grab your smoking pipe, sit yourself down on your couch, and watch this Blu-Ray/DVD! Mostly the film seems too dated and naive for its time – it’s not awful, but it it’s not that great either. The fight scenes make it fairly essential viewing for devotees of the art, but it’s otherwise mostly mediocre, and occasionally less even than that. While not one of such, it contains a very good plot, good acting, cool action scenes, and some emotional moments. When finished viewing, prepare for extreme withdrawal symptoms… from the movie, of course!
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