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Clans of Intrigue

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 08/20/2006
Summary: I know all there is to know about the crying game...

After three Clan leaders are assassinated, Kung Nan-Yen (Nora Miao) accuses Master Thief Chiu Liu-Hsiang (Ti Lung) as being the only man capable of the murders, but generously allows him one month to clear his name. Chiu Liu-Hsiang then sets off to find the real killers and uncovers a web of intrigue, where he cannot trust anyone and no one is quite what they seem…

Cho Yuan is not exactly the most accessible of directors to a western audience, who generally like their Kung Fu to be a lot more straightforward than this. It’s supremely ironic then that even the most casual viewer of Hong Kong cinema will know him by sight - he’s the main bad guy from Police Story!

I tried to watch CLANS OF INTRIGUE about two or three years ago, but gave up about twenty minutes in when I came to the conclusion that it was madder than a bucket of rabid squirrels. It’s taken this long to try again now that my tolerance for this kind of thing has increased quite a bit.

So what is CLANS OF INTRIGUE really like? Well, to my surprise, it doesn’t seem that mad anymore, but it’s still something of a frustrating experience to watch all the way through. It twists and turns more than a twisting turning thing, but it genuinely has a coherent core to it - which is more than you can say for a lot of films. No doubt this is the film that spawned the knock-off Lo Wei film TO KILL WITH INTRIGUE, which was released in the same year with a fraction of the budget and an even smaller fraction of the general public’s interest. However, I found the mainly studio-bound project a bit confining in places (I think there are maybe two or three scenes that are shot on location). That said, there are some great sets and at least two truly great special effects in this film.

Nora Miao is as lovely as you remember from all those Bruce Lee films before she retired and fended off the male population by getting the most hideous 80’s perm-job you could imagine. There’s also a tiny sighting of a young Yuen Wah as the Ninja Iga who appears in a vital flashback, but if you blink, you’ll miss him.

Ti Lung, although given the chance to shine on his own in this film, is just a blur for the most part. That’s the trouble with this film, I feel. It’s just so damn FRANTIC. You could probably go on for hours describing what happens (this happened, then THIS happened, causing x and y to fight, then THIS happened, and so on). I much prefer the more “simmering” style of Chang Cheh, where things take time to develop (usually involving a corrupt official or two) and the story is given room to breathe. It’s the same problem I have with ZU, but I realise the very reason why I’m put off a film is the same reason some people love them! So if fast and furious pacing is your bag, you’re probably going to love this.

Certainly, the fight scenes cannot be faulted. Using what would normally be an uneasy mix of Wuxia and Kung fu styles, CLANS OF INTRIGUE does somehow pull it off, and the film includes some excellent examples of choreography for its time. Also, the films inventiveness in this department is super-cool in places – I loved the shot of the table flying through the air during one fight scene!

Be aware that the Celestial DVD blurb and cover shots may contain information that give some of the ending away. However, as the film is quite convoluted, you will probably have forgotten the spoilers by the time of the big reveal. Nevertheless, if you’re planning to take the plunge, I recommend not reading the back of the box or looking at the cover too closely.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 03/13/2004
Summary: Pretty good

Though the beginning, where the Magic WAter clan basically tells Ti Lung "we think you killed those Masters and we believe you killed them, so you find the killer or we kill you!!" and then Off Ti Lung goes and investigates!! Just like that!!

The movie itself is a murder mystery, with Ti Lung slowly putting the puzzle together. The action is quite good but i hate one of those endings which suddenly end!!

A pretty good movie with nice twists, though at times confusing


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/29/2003
Summary: Not a lot of action, but lots of atmosphere and character....

Good Story, great atmosphere and good characters. The plot twists are a bit confusing and go a bit OTT at the end but overall I liked the film. Not much in the way of fights but one sword fight was extremely good. Ti Lung is good, plays a light hearted character compared to his one in the Magic Blade. Well worth a watch.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/16/2003
Summary: Great

CLANS OF INTRIGUE is another movie adapted from a novel by Gu Long and directed by Chor Yuen (like MAGIC BLADE and KILLER CLANS, and many others). Ti Lung has the lead role, as noble thief and master fighter Chu Liu Hsiang. He learns that he has been framed for the murder of several clan leaders, and has one month to try and clear his name. His search into the truth about the deaths in the clans does indeed uncover many layers of intrigue.

COI is part martial arts movie, part murder mystery. It features a deliciously complicated plot of alliances, betrayals and surprising revelations that somehow manages to be quite easy to follow despite its many twists and turns.

There is a good mix of characters to populate this Jiang Hu world, all of whom are very interesting and memorable, and all of whom are well played by the cast. Bruce Lee regular Nora Miao perhaps stands out as the most interesting character... and definitely the best looking one

There's plenty of action, a mixture of fantastical wuxia leaps and moves and more grounded 'real' kung fu. It's very well choreographed and filmed, though still looking quite dated compared to the 80's and 90's action standards.

The films of Chor Yuen have been a great revelation, as I had absolutely no idea the man existed before Celestial/IVL started releasing his films on DVD. It's good to see another director who had as strong a vision of the way wuxia should be brought to the screen as King Hu and Tsui Hark. CLANS OF INTRIGUE is the first of his movies that I've seen where I've really felt that he was operating on the same level as those two auteurs though. It's a fantastically constructed and consistently entertaining movie.

Maybe it just caught me in the right mood, but I have to say that I enjoyed CLANS OF INTRIGUE the most out of all the recent Shaw Brothers releases that I've seen.

Highly recommended!

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 01/25/2003

Another very good movie based on a Ku Lung novel. The story is filled with intrigue and has its share of fights. This one has Ti Lung playing the famous Chu Liu Hsiang character. Personally, I like Adam Cheng playing the guy, but Ti Lung isn’t bad. The story has Chu Liu Hsiang being accused of stealing some “Magic Water” and using it to kill off some “unwanted” people. Like Perry Mason, Chu Liu Hsiang sets out to find some clues and string them together to find out who the real killer is. The storyline is great and the plot is very straightforward unlike a lot of Ku Lung movies adapted for the big screen. Chu Yuan manages to put together and keep up a fixed pace and suspenseful sequence of events. Entertaining flick. Recommended.