Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Summary: Slow start and not much incentive to continue...
Young Hero of Shaolin I is the first in a two-part series covering what is described as the most accurate telling of the story of Fong Sai Yuk. From a young child, Fong is raised to study martial arts, primarily by his mother who is an accomplished artist herself. When a Taoist priest comes and tried to extort money from the family, he and his crony are defeated by the mother and her master, but the priest swears revenge. When he returns years later and attacks Fong, the mother decides to have him enter the Shaolin temple and train to increase his skills. Fong is a natural and quickly advances up the ladder, getting in the prescribed mischief along the way. After a few years he decides to leave the temple and seek out the priest for revenge, and locates him hosting a local martial arts tournament in a small city. Seeing that the priest and his henchmen are cheating in the fights, he challenges them and eventually must fight for his life.
Reviewer Score: 4
At the start this film had potential, seeing that it was purported to be an accurate telling of the Fong Sai Yuk story. Unfortunately, it ended up being a rather typical mainland offering with an lead who was tough to have any empathy for. Shut Bo-Wa (Fong), when a teen, is one of the most annoying characters you'll ever care to come across in a movie. He acts like he's borderline mentally handicapped and ends up tormenting everyone in his presence. How anyone does not end up killing him in the temple is beyond me. Along the way there is a hint at a romance (perhaps to be explored in part 2) but nothing ever materializes. Probably the most interesting part of the film is when Fong must defeat a huge group of monks in order to gain permission to leave the temple. The opposing monks form large group shapes, much like a college marching band, and Fong must work his way out of the shapes by fighting the constantly moving monks. The shapes that these monks form include the Buddhist symbol of good luck, the symbol the Nazis reversed in order to create the swastika. Before the fights in the tournament, there is a scene that is clearly one to set up a confrontation in the next film, between a master and Fong set on the classic set of plum poles. However, the choreography is very slow and stilted, as some of the shots are from about 100 feet away and the participants clearly are actually fighting on the 10-foot poles. Unfortunately, neither seem very adept at this style of combat and the scene should have been a throwaway, save for the set up. The final tournament is a highlight though, with some very accomplished martial artists in some well-choreographed fights. Unless mistaken, I believe a young Chiu Cheung-Gwan appears as one of the best fighters in the competition. Hopefully, the second part of this set will round out some unanswered questions, as this film is overall quite mediocre.
Reviewed by: STSH
Summary: Action spectacular
There must be something about the story of great martial arts heroes which inspire movies which are terrific in the action dept but rather silly in story and acting. This movie is a good example, although it takes a somewhat different cut on his life. At least this one doesn't suffer the crushing solemness which burdened many other Mainland productions. Lead actor Shut Bo Wa smiles a lot (more of an inane grin, actually).
Reviewer Score: 7
Mainly what matters is the martial arts, and it's first class and plentiful, well up to the standard one would expect from such a cast of unknowns on the mainland. Recommended.