review by Jerome

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HK's Prodigal Son
Review: The Prodigal Son chronicles the development of one of China’s most enduring and colourful martial arts heroes, Leung Jaan; from his early days, to his training and culminating in his most epic battles. This gripping adaptation depicts the adventures of a true hero who loses innocence, but gains strength and empathy in the pursuit of honour and mastery of the martial arts.

Yuen Biao plays the title character Leung Jaan, famous for being Fat Saan’s street brawler because of his many victories in his fights. However, he is lead to believe that he is unbeatable until his defeat by Cantonese Opera Singer and Wing Chun master, Leung Yee Tai (Lam Ching Ying). Leung Jaan comes to the realisation that all of his opponents were paid to lose to him thus making him a “prodigal son”. This is shown in several scenes where his servant Yee Dung Choi (Peter Chan) bribes Leung Jaan’s opponents and his failure to accomplish that with Leung Yee Tai. Realising his defeat at the hands of Leung Yee Tai, Leung Jaan confronts his two kung fu masters; one who is played by Lee Hoi Sang and is subsequently beaten. Such humiliation renders Leung Jaan to seek real martial arts instruction from Leung Yee Tai. A reluctant Leung Yee Tai, refuses instruction in Wing Chun until Leung Jaan saves his life from assassins sent by a Manchurian Duke.

Frankie Chan plays Ngai Fei; the son of the Manchurian Duke mentioned previously who seeks out kung fu masters to fight and refine his martial arts. The Duke sends out two servants / assassins played by Chung Fat and Dik Wai, to assist Ngai Fei and kill any opponent that may hurt his son. In this context, Ngai Fei is also a “prodigal son”. This is shown when he is kept in the dark about his servants being ordered to kill any opponent that maybe more powerful in martial arts than himself.

Ngai Fei is determined to be the best of the best.

Sammo Hung plays Wong Wah Bo, a scholar and Leung Yee Tai’s martial arts brother. He gives a very funny performance as Wong Wah Bo, with all sorts of martial arts displays including calligraphy kung fu, and “toilet training” to illustrate the correct stances of the Wing Chun style. Wong Wah Bo is Leung Jaan’s second master; due to recommendation from Leung Yee Tai because of Wong Wah Bo’s many fight experiences.

Yuen Biao and Lam Ching Ying are given the opportunity to display their acrobatic and Peiking Opera skills, which fully detail the traditions associated with Chinese Opera and its relationship with Kung Fu. The Prodigal Son does not go into the details of the two weapons used within the Wing Chun style, the six and a half inch staff and the eight slashing knives / butterfly knives. However, it highlights and gives emphasis on the unarmed combat and the three forms of Wing Chun, Siu Nim Tau, Cham Kiu and Biu Jee

The Prodigal Son is one of the best films of the genre and successfully tells how Leung Jaan sought to be a master. Whether or not the film is accurate in it’s story telling, it was difficult to film as much of Wing Chun’s history was orally passed down from master to student.

The Prodigal Son is a very compelling film that enlists the morals of the martial arts and excellent stunt and fight choreography.

I rate it 9/10

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Genre: Wushu/Martial Arts/Epic
Director: Director: Sammo Hung
Cast: Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Frankie Chan, Peter Chan Lung, Lam Ching Ying, Wei Pai (Wai Baak), Wu Ma (Ng Ma), Chung Fat, Dik Wai, Lee Hoi Sang, James Tien.
Reviewed by Jerome (Bart), July 2006