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Kung Fu Fireworks – DIRTY HO

DIRTY HO is another transcendent kung-fu movie by one of the all time greats, Lau Kar Leung.

Quit snickering and get past the fact that it sounds like a porn flick: Dirty Ho [La tou He] (1979) deserves your utmost respect. The story of a playboy Prince (Gordon Liu) traveling incognito and sampling of the finer things his kingdom has to offer while fending off assassins is a bona-fide masterpiece. Despite the fact that for the first 40 minutes or so there is very little action, the story is strong, the comedy intelligent, and the character development compelling, as our Prince crosses paths with a country bumpkin named Ho, forcing him to become his student/indentured servant. The titular Ho (odd combination of words) is so clueless that he doesn’t even notice the attempts on his rival’s life until halfway through the movie – which is when the payoff truly begins. Lau Kar Leung, director of 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, The 36 Chambers of Shaolin, and countless other masterpieces, inventor of Horror- and Comedy-Kung Fu, and the single greatest contributor to Martial Arts Cinema, gives us one of his most imaginative creations: “Stealth Kung Fu,” a style by which the Prince manipulates his surroundings and dispatches his enemies in such a way that no one- not even the assassins themselves- might discover that he knows kung fu, which would reveal his Royal identity. As the action builds the fights get more intense, culminating in a fantastic Lone Wolf and Cub-esque set piece and a climactic 3-on-2 fight that’s simply mesmerizing. Wong Yue and Gordon Liu shine as Ho and the Prince and Leung’s usual collaborators – arch-villain Wang Lung-Wei, kung-fu god Wilson Tong, monkey man Hsiao Hou, the lovely Kara Hui and King Boxer Lo Lieh – round out the stellar cast. Part buddy movie, part high adventure, part playful criticism of his past employer (the first fight pokes fun at fellow Shaw Brothers director Chang Cheh‘s over-the-top films), Dirty Ho succeeds in every one of its many ambitions, and is yet another example of the under-appreciated brilliance of Lau Kar Leung, a director worthy of your time and energy.

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