Thursday, January 7, 2010

In short: Blood Revenge (1974)

When they hear that the official Kong who was responsible for their arrest has grown ill and defenceless, a quintet of bad guys with charming names like Big-Little Eye and Big Beard (overcompensating much?) break out of jail. To prove that they are really evil, they not only proceed to kill their designated victim, but also add a little extra wickedness by raping and killing his wife.

Fortunately, the couple's daughter Tsui Fung (Liu Siu-Wai) isn't at home when all that messy violence takes place and lives to swear vengeance on the unknown assailants, as any good child would. It's just a bit problematic that Tsui Fung doesn't know who did the dastardly deeds.

When she visits the grave of her parents, she meets Wei Shi (Phillip Ko). The young man is the son of another couple that was killed by the gang before they were jailed and so has his own good reasons for hating them. After explaining the identity of the enemy (which he just guessed), Tsui Fung and Wei Shi pick off the killers one by one.

The Taiwanese Blood Revenge is vengeance minded martial arts cinema reduced to the bare minimum. It feels nearly dishonest to speak of the film as having a plot - a bare-bones reason for people to kick their faces in is set up, a few additional bits of characterization and exposition are thrown in from time to time, but the only real content is the kicking and hitting in various locations.

It is quite obvious that this no-content approach to filmmaking is director Li Su's way of coping with a very low budget and the lack of time and possibilities that usually comes with it. This is not as huge a problem for the film than one might think. It is a very fine line that separates a minimalistic genre film from an impoverished one and somehow Li Su manages to keep his film on the more interesting minimalistic side.

He has the professionalism of everyone involved on his side. Li Su's own style of direction isn't exactly what I'd call impressive, but he has no problems keeping his film moving (which, as I always say is the most important thing when you make an action film) or framing the action in a satisfying way. The actors aren't brilliant, but aren't bad either, especially seeing that they aren't giving anything to work with by the film's script. The editing is tighter and cleaner than one would expect and the fight choreography isn't pretty but convincingly brutal. You get the gist.

Of course, all the professionalism in the world can't hide the film's lack of substance. The heroine's love for cross-dressing and the film's sudden absurd turn against vigilante violence in its last five minutes are the only elements besides the fights worth mentioning about Blood Revenge and both are just thrown in there without ever actually leading anywhere.

This does not mean that I didn't have a fine ninety minutes with Blood Revenge, though. As a fan of martial arts cinema, watching people kick each other's faces in is sometimes exactly what I look for in a movie, and Blood Revenge nicely delivers on that point.


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