Dirty Ho (1979)

Posted in Reviews by - September 27, 2017
Dirty Ho (1979)

A note-perfect kung fu film from Lau Kar-leung which is character-driven, full of remarkable fight choreography and great fun. In shades of Henry IV Part 2, Gordon Liu plays one of the Emperor’s 14 sons, Wang, a successor to the throne, who shuns the royal life in favour of sampling China’s cultural delights: art collecting, wine-tasting and the study of kung fu. He travels incognito and bores the girls at his local brothel, where he takes a shine to the thieving young local boy, Ho (Wong Yu). Lau leaves the reason for Wang’s affection for the boy open to interpretation. He poisons Ho as a means to train him as a bodyguard and keep him close at all times. Meanwhile, one of Wang’s deceiving royal brothers makes a last ditch attempt at a power grab by assigning General Lo Lieh with the task of sending assassins to end Wang and his chance of succession. What follows is a masterclass in fusing narrative and movement in breathtaking, dance-like sequences. Much of Lau’s cunning choreography is shrouded in disguise, as Wang tries to maintain his anonymity to those around him whilst his rivals simultaneously try to cloak their attacks. In one of many wonderful sequences, Wang hides his exemplary kung fu skills by controlling the limbs of Kara Hui, moving her arms and legs in combat. A wine-tasting event involving Wang Lung-wei and Hsiao Ho ends in a masterful display of animal styles, and the film culminates in a large-scale, Kurosawa-style descent on the royal palace in which Ho and a handicapped Wang share the same pole against a halberd-wielding Lo Lieh and his guards. It’s one of the best examples of the kung fu genre.

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