could you find a heroic film treatment of a European Christian missionary? Hong
Kong in 1973. Father Lewis (Lu Yi) is a true humanitarian who supports Korea’s
aspirations for liberation. Unfortunately, the Japanese occupation does not
cotton to his interference and act accordingly. However, his allies are not
nearly so prone to turn the other cheek. Angela Mao will get some serious retribution
in Feng Huang’s When Taekwondo Strikes (trailer here), which is
included in The Angela Mao Ying Collection now available from Shout Factory.
Ling-ching is Chinese, but she has always identified with her oppressed Korean
comrades. She can also fight, but her hapkido is different from the taekwondo
practiced by Li Jun-dong, the leader of the local resistance. Li has
masqueraded as the good Father’s servant, but the jig is up. Initially, the
Imperial enforcers are a bit circumspect dealing with Father Lewis for fear of
antagonizing his embassy, but then they realize he is French and proceed to
torture him with impunity. Things really look bad when Li is also captured, but
Wan tries to keep his hot-headed apprentice and Mary, the Father’s kung fu
kicking nun-niece, focused and together.
Taekwondo is a rather
fascinating manifestation of Angela Mao’s international superstardom, obviously
produced with an eye towards the Korean market. In addition to the setting, it
is the only martial film starring taekwondo grandmaster Jhoon Goo Rhee (dubbed “the
Father of American Taekwondo”), who is all kinds of steely awesome as Ji. Mao’s
Wan is also terrifically cool, charismatic, and lethal. Unfortunately,
throughout Strikes, they are
surrounded by spectacularly bad decision-makers with insufficiently established
motivations, especially the rather dazed looking Anne Winton as Mary. She’s got
the moves, though, as we would expect from “Jhoon’s best student,” as the
trailer tells us.
what Strikes does well, it does tremendously
well. That would be the fight scenes choreographed by Chan Chuen and Sammo
Hung, who naturally appears as a Japanese enforcer. The climatic
all-hands-on-deck throw-down is a massively satisfying genre pay-off that will
have fans yelling and cheering at the screen.
Even though Mao shares the beat-down duties with
Rhee quite equally, her star-power is clearly driving the bus. If you are looking
for straight forward adrenaline-charged martial arts with a few awkward
line-readings, it is tough to beat. It is also rather strangely in-line with
the recent bumper crop of WWII-era anti-Japanese action films coming out of the
Chinese language territories these days—aside from the sympathetic portrayal of
western Christians. Recommended for fans of Mao and Hung, When Taekwondo Strikes is now available on DVD, as part of The Angela Mao Ying Collection.
Labels: Angela Mao, DVD, Hong Kong Cinema, Martial arts cinema, Sammo Hung