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gF (1972)
The Adventure

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 10/13/2009
Summary: Talk, talk, talk

If “The Adventure” was worth trying to figure out it would be a confusing mess. But since there are no interesting characters, a plot that starts in the middle and goes nowhere, badly choreographed and filmed actions scenes and dull exterior sets and dark interiors, any energy spent deciphering what is onscreen is wasted. One knife fight takes so long to develop that the antagonists’ weapons might have rusted before they were used. Mimi takes less time to die in “La Boheme than a couple of the characters here after suffering their mortal blows. The audience for “The Adventure” will be those who want to see 90 minutes of Jimmy Wang Yu playing Jimmy Wang Yu.

Two scenes show the ineptitude of the writer and director of “The Adventure. In the first Wang Yu is leading a salt caravan across a trackless wasteland. They stop at a stagnant pond fronted by ragged trees. The trees symbolize the Lo brothers, members of the Sixth Union, who were ambushed, killed and buried there while on a similar caravan escort mission. Wang Yu, then a young trainee, had been sent ahead to tell the local noble that the caravan would be spending the night there. The bigwig will be happy to see them because they had recently routed a gang of bandits that had been harassing the neighborhood.

The Lo brothers are unaware that the landlord has died and in the chaos that results anarchy is loose upon the land. The bandits they had defeated in the past have regrouped and, outnumbering the Lo brothers, set upon them. It isn't an ambush--the bandits simply ride up to the caravan, announce their intent--"We are going to kill all of you" and start shooting. Brave but outgunned and on foot while their assailants are mounted, the caravan escort doesn’t have a chance, even under the brave leadership of Two-Gun Lo. The ensuing battle is short and bloody, with Wang Yu returning just as the last of the brothers die.

This is told in flashback and the fatal flaws of “The Adventure” show as soon as the action returns to the present time. Director Li Su forgot the most essential tenet of film directing: "show, don't tell". Back in the present time the caravan workers tell each other (and the audience) what has happened in the ensuing several years. Wang Yu has forsaken revenge, feeling that he has to help support the families of his slain comrades although he does become a righteous customs official, upholder of the rights of the downtrodden and all around man of action. But even though he has saved innocent men from execution, fought and defeated bandits and helped keep the peace in a lawless land he remains the same depressed and dejected person whose feels his greatest shortcoming is not being slain with the rest of the fighters. The feats of derring-do that the men describe sound exciting—they sound like something you would want to see onscreen. But you don’t.

The action in the middle of the movie takes place in the big house that still dominates the countryside although it is periodically besieged by bandits—the same ones who slaughtered the earlier caravan. Wang Yu decides to stay there to defeat them once and for all. Lots of people get shot, stabbed, a couple of them are trapped in a burning building—the big house seems to burn to the ground twice in the second half of the movie—and a spy at the heart of the household is uncovered.

The long, dull exposition by the caravan workers describing Wang Yu’s heroism is bookended by another long, dull scene full of talk. In this one Wang Yu addresses the assembled survivors of the household much like Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple explaining everything and identifying the guilty parties at the end of an Agatha Christie mystery. There is a lot of talk in “The Adventure”, none of it worth listening to.

While it doesn't redeem this mess, the last five minutes of "The Adventure" are worth watching--it is a mano et mano fight between Wang Yu who has been temporarily blinded and is unarmed and the man he just identified as a traitor and spy who is armed with a knife. The fight is protracted--a bit too much--brutal and convincing.

Reviewer Score: 2