One of the great things about being a fan of martial arts films is that no matter what the current state of the genre may be, there is always a seemingly endless back catalogue of gems available on tap. One such blast from the past, originally released back in 1970 and now seeing the light again on DVD is “The Bravest Revenge” from director Lung Chien, who was also responsible for the likes of “King of Boxers” and “Queen of Fist”. The Taiwanese film marked the reunion of Shang Kuan Ling Feng and Tien Peng, who starred together in King Hu’s classic 1966 version of “Dragon Gate Inn”.
The film starts as aging constable Long is brought out of retirement to catch an escaped villain called Chau Mutien who he helped catch some years back. Unfortunately, Chau has improved his sword skills considerably in the time since and makes short work of poor Long. Inevitably, this leads to a revenge quest for Long’s daughter Yi (Shang-Kuan Ling Feng, who later won a Golden Horse Best Actress award for her role in Lo Wei’s “Back Alley Princess”) and his three disciples. Quite sensibly, they take a few years to learn some new tricks before reuniting to take down Chau, who by now has taken over the whole area with his army of thugs. Yi also has a little extra help in the shape of master swordsman Jie (Tien Peng, who also starred with Shang in “A Girl Fighter”), who is equally keen to see the scoundrel meet his fate.
Make no mistake about it – “The Bravest Revenge” is a film which revolves around its action sequences, with the sketchy plot barely getting a look in. Indeed, the film almost entirely consists of martial arts battles and brawls, with director Lung occasionally throwing in a few lines of voice over narration, which usually don’t amount to much more than ‘second brother followed Chau to the mountain, where he was ambushed by yet more of his useless henchmen’. Obviously, this is by no means a bad thing, and by focusing on what matters, Lung delivers a stripped down, intense slice of kung fu action that contains very little in the way of filler material – a lesson which many modern directors would do well to learn. The film does make a few attempts at mysticism, for example pushing the admirably dogged heroes through trials of poison and fire en route to Chau – however, these turn out to be little more than further gangs of lackeys.
The action is well handled and exciting, with some fairly inventive choreography and kinetic camera work. The last half hour of the film is basically taken up with one long battle scene in which Yi and the disciples take on what appears to be a never ending stream of goons, and is impressively brutal. The film boasts a massive bodycount, with the bad guys almost lining up to be knocked down, and with Chau himself being the only one to offer much of a challenge. He does make for a fine villain, being strangely magnanimous at times at times and having a truly ambitious plan. Amusingly, his gimmick weapon, which most of the cast seem to be terrified of, is actually nothing more than a perfectly ordinary looking sword which he uses to reflect the sun into the eyes of his enemies, an act which usually comes complete with weird sound effects that suggest something supernatural is happening. There are quite a few funny scenes in the film, including some odd shots which appear to be in slow motion, but which do not look quite right, with the actors moving slowly, but with other things in the frame such as leaves and grass moving at normal speed.
Of course, such strangeness only serves to make “The Bravest Revenge” even more entertaining, and whilst it does not particularly stand out amongst its countless peers, it certainly serves up a highly enjoyable slice of genre action. By sticking to the basics and showing a good eye for action, Lung captures the essence of what can make martial arts films so great.
Lung Chien (director) / Ge Tien (screenplay)
CAST: Bao-liang Chen, Feng Chen, Ching-fang Chou, Xiangting Ge, Han Hsieh, Chun Huang, Pao Yu Kai, Ming Kao, Lu-Shih Ku, Mei-hua Li