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x (2007)

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 05/19/2012
Summary: Not easy to be hard.

Soi Cheang Pou-Soi's Shamo features Shawn Yu Man-Lok in the lead role. Sent to prison for the murder of his parents, young Ryo [Yu] turns his life around by studying karate with Kurakowa, the top instructor in the prison system, played with gusto by the great Francis Ng.

After his release from jail, he sets out to find and rescue his prostitute sister. But along the way, he must participate in the brutal mixed martial arts TV program known as Lethal Fight in order to further his quest for redemption. In the process, the viewer is treated to a visual array of violence and sexual abuse suffered by Ryo and his younger sister Natsumi, played by Pei Pei Wei-Ying, at the hands of their parents, his jailers, fellow prisoners and society as a whole.

Action direction by Jack Wong Wai-Leung blends the fighting scenes nicely with Soi Cheang's direction of the screenplay by Hashimoto Izo amd Szeto Kam-Yuen based on the famous Japanese manga. All technical aspects are nicely produced in this film.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/03/2008

As a long-time fan of Hong Kong films, this particular reviewer knows that there are certain times when, despite its' pretenses, a movie should not be taken seriously at all. Soi Cheang's Shamo is most definitely one of those entries. After all, to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a kick to the head is just a kick to the head.

Chock-full of sex and violence, but still just friendly enough to garner a IIB rating, Shamo is perhaps not surprisingly based on a Japanese manga. The main character, Ryo (played by Shawn Yu), is sent to jail after killing his parents. The notoriety of Ryo's crime makes hime a prime target, which results in (as the plot description on the back cover politely puts it) a "buggering". After the attack, Ryo attempts suicide, but is saved by Kenji (Francis Ng), an old-timer in the jail who teaches Ryo to defend himself.

After getting paroled, Ryo sets out to find his sister (Pei Pei Wei-Ying), and decides the best way to get her attention is by defeating the champion (Masato) of a popular TV show called "Lethal Fight". Ryo's reputation proceeds him, and he quickly becomes one of the top stars on the show. But getting to his sister and the real reason he killed his parents won't be as easy as just winning a few matches for Ryo.

So, yeah, you could throw Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Segal, or, hell, even Jeff Speakman ala their prime back in the halcyon days of around 1986 into Shawn Yu's role and probably get the same results. And that's really Shamo's charm.

Part loving homage and part mocking parody to the brainless action movies that garnered shelf space at your local video store back in the eighties and still are a mainstay of late-night cable viewing, Shamo throws a ton of stuff at the viewer. Thankfully, like the better Hong Kong films, some of it actually sticks.

Yeah, the acting isn't that hot (besides Francis Ng, who would probably still look cool if he was filmed for an hour doing nothing but eating noodles) and the story is pretty much garbage. Even the overall look of the movie, which features spiky-haired manga funneled through a pseudo sci-fi tint, is somewhat perplexing.

But Shamo, at the very least, is a damn interesting movie that -- for better or worse -- will hold your attention. Whether it's because it's exciting or akin to a cinematic train wreck is up to the individual viewer, but at least you won't be bored. And that's a lot more than a lot of movies, from both HK and the US, can claim nowadays.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 7