Right from the outset, I admit to being a big fan of martial arts movies, and I've been spoiled recently as well with some stunning releases. From Hong Kong I have sampled some of the Shaw Brothers collection from Celestial Pictures like Come Drink with Me. In the UK, Hong Kong Legends (Iron Monkey) and Premier Asia (Bichunmoo) have released quality films, often remastered and with the best extras they could get their hands on. Even if you wanted your chop-socky action on the cheap, the MegaStar releases from Hong Kong, like Duel to the Death, letterboxed but the right OAR, all came with Cantonese, Mandarin and English 5.1 tracks, as well as Chinese, Japanese and English subtitles. All for around $6! However, this release from 55th Chamber and Prism is quite frankly dismal. I'll get to my reasons later, but lets take a look at plot of My Kung Fu 12 Kicks first.
Shaw Brothers veteran Bruce (Siu-Lung) Leung stars as Tai Pien, a local pickpocket who unfortunately is caught stealing by the local loan shark, Chow. He's given a sound beating and is only helped by the local brothel cleaner and his master Mr Wu. They suggest to Tai Pien that he learn Kung-Fu in order that he exact revenge on his attackers. On his way to the school, Tai encounters 3 masters who are being set upon by Iron Shin Kwai. Tai Pien decides to help them out and in return they begin to teach him some moves. Although he goes on and gets some payback on Chow, Chow is not happy and decides to hire Kwai to go after the petty thief. Tai's only chance now is Mr Wu, who decides to teach him the legendary Tan Toi style as he is about to face his greatest challenge.
Obviously a take on the Jackie Chan classic Drunken Master, My Kung Fu 12 Kicks never reaches the same heights, neither comedically nor in the fighting stakes. The slapstick is ok, but gets too silly and is no match for Jackie Chan. Again, the fight scenes are fine, but there is nothing that raises it above mediocrity. Also it gets a little daft with Tai resorting to testicle pulling and urinating on his opponents. All this is not helped by the awful picture and ludicrous and cheesy dialogue. This would be acceptable on a dodgy VHS from 1982, but its 2006 and the digital age is in full swing with HD and Blu-ray just round the corner, yet we still get shoddy releases like this. Surely the original language tracks and some new subtitles could have been found? An average but not altogether bad movie is totally let down with sheer laziness by 55th Chamber and Prism.
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