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勇者無懼 (1981)
Dreadnought


Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 11/28/2010
Summary: Yuen Clan involved? Sure winner...

Another slam-bang martial arts film from the Yuen clan. Both Yuen Biao and Leung Kar-Yan are in top shape, with Biao showing some incredible acrobatic skills. Yan’s fight with a two-faced attacker in an empty theater is especially innovative and exciting. Kwan Tak-Hing, reprising his legendary role of Wong Fei-Hung, is excellent in his limited scenes, although a stunt double is clearly used for some of his more intense sequences. Even though he starts off with a bang, Yuen Shun-Yi slows a bit during the mid-section of the film, but rekindles the speed and power for his final showdown with Biao. It should be mentioned as well that there are some absolutely incredible lion-dance sequences in this film, especially the northern style lion and its drunken antics. Other than relatively small roles for Phillip Ko and Lily Li, and a strange, not fully-expained style utilized by Biao (two finger toad catching style?), this film is a home run in almost every way.

9/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 11/03/2009

Cowardly laundry boy Mousy (Yuen Biao) unwittingly draws the interest of twisted serial killer White Tiger (Yuen Shun-Yi) while an elderly Wong Fei-Hung (Kwan Tak-Hing) finds himself facing jealous rival Tam (Phillip Ko-Fai) and his hired help.

By 1981, the Kung Fu comedy cycle started by Yuen Woo-Ping’s twin hits SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW and DRUNKEN MASTER was clearly running out of steam. Nevertheless, Golden Harvest’s DREADNAUGHT is still better than most of the dire comedies that came out of the Shaw studio around this time, even if it falls somewhat short of being an all-out classic in its own right.

By my reckoning, this was the very last time Kwan Tak-Hing played Wong Fei-Hung after appearing as the legendary doctor in many, many, many films. Despite being doubled in a lot of scenes and with the remainder being fairly stationary affairs with just upper body movement, he still looks fairly convincing.

The story is pretty perfunctory (and littered with Lion Dance scenes, which were popular at the time), with a strange killer with the name of White Tiger being introduced at the beginning as the film’s obvious villain. Played by Yuen Shun-Yi (every Kung Fu film fan’s favourite nutter), the character is enraged by the sound of small decorative bells since his wife was killed in an ambush at a restaurant. Apart from this scene, there’s not a lot of explanation of his character, and all we know is he’s severely screwed up over his wife’s death.

Mousy, as played by Yuen Biao, is not exactly the most memorable character in the genre. Like in the 1982 movie DRAGON LORD, the hero can’t actually fight, but rather bumbles along and wins the day through sheer spirit. This is a shame as we never really see Yuen’s considerable agility. Leung Kar-Yan puts in a rare beardless performance as Ah Foon (who was previously played by Yuen Biao in another Yuen Woo-Ping film, MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER), and actually gets to show off his stuff more than the film’s star. The rest of the supporting cast appears to be filled out by Yuen Woo-Ping’s entire family, and you can’t go very long without spotting one of the director’s relatives.

Sadly, this was the only time Yuen Biao had top billing in one of the legendary director’s films and DREADNAUGHT always strikes me in as a film that doesn’t really live up to its potential, despite being quite enjoyable. But then, I feel that way about a lot of Yuen Woo-Ping’s films. As far as I’m concerned, if you want to see Yuen Biao on top form, check out KNOCKABOUT instead, and if you want to see the director at his best, see the aforementioned DRUNKEN MASTER.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/13/2007
Summary: Classic action-comedy

DREADNAUGHT is another entry in the Golden Harvest kung-fu comedy steamroller started by Yuen Wo-Ping and Jackie Chan a few years earlier. By 1981 there were plenty of kung fu comedies about, including no shortage of 'classics' already. DREADNAUGHT doesn't exactly break the mould, but it adds enough of its own personality to make it 'unique', and what isn't original is still executed very well here. It's also notable as the last time Kwan Tak-Hing would play Wong Fei-Hung.

The story is straightforward - Yuen Biao plays a nervous young man called Mousy, who is encouraged to learn kung fu from Wong Fei-Hung by his friend Foon (Wong's top student, played by Leung Kar-Yan). Meanwhile, Wong's rival (Philip Ko Fei) is hiding wanted killer White Tiger (Yuen Shun-Yi, in an unforgettable role), who has been driven 3/4 mad by the death of his wife - which he is unfortunately reminded of every time he hears the little bells that Mousy wears around is neck.

The rest of the film pretty much writes itself, but it's full of nice details. There is a stark contrast between the youthful mischief of Mousy and Foon, and the dark, violent craziness of White Tiger that gives DREADNAUGHT its most memorable moments.

Action is of course plentiful, and of a very high quality, with a lion dance scene near the beginning being particularly memorable. There's quite a mix of styles, with Biao's acrobatics heavily featured, contrasted with the precision of the kung fu showed by Leung Kar-Yan and (a heavily doubled) Kwan Tak-Hing, contrasted again with the raw power and ferocity of Yuen Shun-Yi. It's a true showcase of the art of movie martial arts, and a tribute to the Peking Opera tradition that led to it.

8.5/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 11/01/2005
Summary: Action at its best

If one were to attempt to know the work of John Ford without seeing any of his westerns and war movies or that of Steven Speilberg but leaving out all the movies that deal with space aliens, dinosaurs, the Ark of the Covenant or World War II. While it might still be obvious that the director in question is an excellent filmmaker, you would be missing quite a bit of real genius. The same is true of Yuen Wo Ping. Moviegoers who know him only from his work on “Danny the Dog”, the “Matrix” trilogy and “Kill Bill” volumes one and two don’t know how great he really is.

“Dreadnaught” is one example of this. Yuen has crafted a terrific movie—it is tightly plotted with excellent performances from a top notch cast and breathtaking action scenes. It has good guys you like and bad guys you hate, including White Tiger, a ferocious villain who lives to kill, and Huang Fei Hong, an embodiment of all the virtues of the martial arts. While fight scenes dominate the movie the characters are presented and developed so that the audience gets to know them sufficiently to care about what happens to them. The only major subplot are dealt with using kung fu movie shorthand—Tam King want to defeat Haung’s school in the lion dance competition and claim primacy in the martial arts world, at least in this corner of China. The main action, which involves the maniacal hatred that White Tiger has for Mousy is motivated almost by chance—the bells that Mousy wears (and rings constantly—for a moment one might think that it wouldn’t be so bad for Mousy to get his head chopped off it would silence the constant ringing) remind White Tiger of the same type of bell that his pregnant and very deadly wife wore on her wrist. That’s all it takes to get thing in motion—the happenstance of a family charm that reminds White Tiger of his dead wife and a kung fu school run by a bad guy who want to defeat the school run by the good guy.

Things get off to a rousing start—the first fight scene is less than a minute into the film when White Tiger and his wife (who he is pushing in a barrow) walk into an ambush laid by bounty hunters from several provinces. It takes place in a restaurant that has been taken over by the bounty hunters and is fierce, bloody and brutal. It is also a bit one-sided, since White Tiger and his wife are leagues more deadly than any of their assailants. It is only when she is cornered and surrounded by several enemies that she is dispatched.

The next action sequence is the lion dance competition and its prelude, scenes that show Tam King’s lion dancers practicing both their normal lion dance moves and also the way they will be able to win, by spewing fire and setting Huang’s lion ablaze. The lion dancing is elegant, exciting, amazingly athletic and completely involving for the audience. The dancers—two in each lion—are almost unbelievably skilled. They use the limitations of the costume and necessity to stay in character while performing feats of skill or fighting with the enemy to their advantage so that the rigid rules of the sport are both adhered to but also subverted.

The pursuit of Mousy by White Tiger follows soon after the lion dancer competition. Mousy is stalked through narrow alleyways by his always enraged assailant and in this sequence we see that he is not really a coward. He does everything he can to escape, using the bamboo poles, small logs and large pots that are conventionally and conveniently at hand to slow his pursuer. If he had been really as cowardly as depicted in the first scenes when introduced, Mousy would have just curled up and let White Tiger kill him. Since White Tiger has killed anyone who was even mildly troublesome to him, Mousy’s ability to escape—and the athleticism he shows in doing so—and even inflict a bit of damage on White Tiger shows he is more than just a fearful kid.

The setting for “Dreadnaught” is a violent and treacherous place where peril lurks everywhere—you can even get killed while buying a suit. Tam King, seemingly as put out by not getting an invitation to the opening of a new restaurant as his school’s defeat in the lion dance, sends the Demon Tailor to measure Huang for a suit—and also for a casket. As a tailor, the assassin has the tools of both his trades near at hand: razor sharp scissors, pins and a tape measure that doubles as a garrote. He doesn’t have a chance of carrying out his mission, of course, but it is a wonderful sequence as Huang easily parries the tailor’s skilled thrusts.

While Mousy develops during the movie, White Tiger ends it as exactly the same person he was at the beginning—grotesque, bestial, a deranged killer who doesn’t (or can’t) speak. He lives to kill and does a great job of it. White Tiger is a formidable foe, all but invincible and effectively scary when he puts on his opera make up. The extreme close up that shows him doing it the first time, from the heavy shading around his eyes to the final dots of red to highlight the black and white that covers his face, is a fascinating image.

The main theme of the movie—Mousy’s realization of his underlying courage and confidence and the ability that flows from that understanding—is hammered home when Huang, watching Mousy, tells him that he doesn’t need instruction since he has already mastered Eagle Claw kung fu. This is news to Mousy, but it turns out that the family tradition of using two fingers on each hand to stretch and dry laundry, plus his skillful practice with a washboard (!) has taught him the basics of the Eagle Claw. Mousy is finally able to overcome and kill White Tiger, using the two fingered Claw to rip his skin and pull out entire chunks of hair and the washboard motion to flay him.

Yeun Biao did an excellent job with this character—he acts very well with his eyes, has a great smile and came across as a charming wastrel, someone to hang around with but not to count on in a difficult situation. Kwan Tak Hing, of course, is the iconic representation of Huang Fei Hung and he has never played him better. Leung Kar Yan was good Foon, Mousy’s protector and second in command to Huang. There were a lot of comic relief characters but they came and went (often violently) quickly enough that they were actually funny and not annoying.

Highly recommended

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/25/2003

This is a pretty cool take on the Wong Fei-Hung character (played here by Kwan Tak-Hing, who made Wong famous by portraying him in almost 100 films). Yuen Biao (in one of his meatier roles) plays a somewhat cowardly guy named Mousy who wants to learn kung fu from Wong. In the background, there are a couple of other plots revolving around -- what else? -- a lion dance, with the competing teams wanting to snuff out Wong so they can actually win for a change. But really the story is an excuse to get to the action. Though to its' credit, the story does weave in some nice symbolism about conflicts between Mainland and Hong Kong values. But I'm guessing most people (like myself) are more interested in the action, and Dreadnaught delivers in spades. Every action sequence is good enough to be puton some kind of best-of compliation, and some of them have been directly copied in more recent movies (Wong Jing's The New Legend of Shaolin revisits the fabulous scene where Fei-Hung fights off a tailor who's really an assassin).

Dreadnaught was one of the last old-school movies -- wire-fu and more modern settings were coming into vogue -- but what a way to go out. This is among both Yuen Biao and Yuen Woo-Ping's best work and comes highly recommended.


Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/04/2003

Classic old school kung fu movie directed by Yuen Woo Ping, starring a young Yuen Biao as well as Kwan Tak Hing reprising his portrayal of Wong Fei Hung. It's enormously satisfying to watch Kwan display amazing agility given his age, and Yuen Biao and Leung Kar Yan are in peak form. Overall, this ranks as one of the classic HK kung fu movies, with a great mix between action and comedy, and several memorable sequences that were copied in later movies. The lion dance is a particular standout, and probably the best example of this kind of scene I've seen in HK movies. I enjoyed this film a lot more than many of Yuen's later movies, even though the portrayal of the make-up wearing villain is a little over the top.

This is a must-see, along with the likes of Prodigal Son and Warriors Two. Strongly recommended. The Deltamac release features the original aspect ratio, original Cantonese soundtrack, optional subtitles and good picture quality, so go for this version over the WA release.


Reviewed by: hellboy
Date: 01/11/2001

On the whole, a solid actioner by Yuen Wo-Ping. But on the other hand he has directed much better movies. Kwan Tak-Hing shows us he still has a lotta spunk for a guy in his 70's although you can tell there are more than a few stunt double scenes. The standout fight pieces include a deadly dragon dance and the final fight between Yuen Biao and Yuen Shun-Yi and his flying cuffs. Yuen Shun-Yi also plays a similar bad guy character in "Drunken Tai-Chi".

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 03/06/2000

How could you miss with Yuen Biao and Leung Ka Yan, set in the last century in the time of Wong ? Well, they managed it !
The plot is very muddled, and casting Yuen as a wimp doesn't help. The fight scenes are the only thing worth watching, and they do get pretty good towards the end.
The best scene is about 35 minutes in, when Wong FW's sworn enemy send The Demon Tailor to assassinate Wong FW. Watching this guy pretending to measure Wong FW while trying to kill him is absolutely hilarious.
Apart from that, the climactic fight scene is a ripper. Judicious use of the fast-forward button is advised ;)
Lastly, no clue at all is given about what the title has to do with the story. Hmmmmmm

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 02/27/2000

I have only seen the original version without subtitles, so I really did not understand what was going on. Kwan Tak Hing once again plays Wong Fei Hong in this movie about an evil spirit who tries to kill Biao every time it is summoned when the bell is rang on Biao's lucky charm. The spirit ends up killing Biao's best friend and finally he must face it in a battle to the death.

[Reviewed by Dave Warner]