This fight scene is a doozy. It’s a corker. The mother of all bar room brawls. Except it’s a Chinese mansion brawl. It’s 15 minutes long and it’s wild. All the characters get involved, as the Shaolin and Wudang families combine to drive off a troop of outrageously dressed and sexually rabid bandits. Not just the men (young and old) but also the young women (prettily dressed in pastel coloured clothes and elaborately coiffed hairstyles) and the cute kids all get stuck in. Even a crying (if not fighting) baby is present, clutched in the arms of its mother, a matronly figure who contributes to the melee by fetching a villain a right ding over the head with a brass bed pan. People fight with swords, poles, rope darts, spears, shields with razor sharp edges, a stick with a claw on the end, a slingshot, the odd household utensil and, of course, fists and feet. They fight in the garden around a dinky little bridge and water feature, in the living room and in the bedroom, on windowsills, cabinets, altars, through screens and curtains, over door jambs, on beds and under tables. The fighting styles seem to be an amalgamation of not only wushu but also some acrobatics, gymnastics and ballet (as an ex hoofer I can even name some of the positions for God’s sakes).
One nice section features Jet Li fighting 2 bandits with not only poles and swords but also the 3 section staff. Although this is a very brutal looking weapon that looks as if it could inflict some truly nasty damage on the average human body I love watching people fight with it. To my mind (and God knows I am no martial artist so please indulge me here) it looks like an implement that earns itself the title of ‘Weapon Most Likely To Flip Back And Break Its User’s Own Nose Or Ribs’. In other words, it looks as if it’s bloody hard to control, and to see it controlled so well and to such an aesthetically pleasing end is exhilarating for the viewer. It’s a weapon that lends itself to fluid and swift choreography and when you watch performers as agile and deft as those in this film then it can be a great weapon to see in action. In Kids from Shaolin you have not just Jet but the 2 bandits using it at the same time and it is an amazing display of skill.
Another thing I love about this fight scene is that, even while the camera is focusing your attention on some characters fighting in the foreground, you can glimpse and hear multiple groups of characters skirmishing in the background. This contributes to the scene’s out of control, frenetic energy and adds to the overall impression of outrageousness and excitement.
Many years ago I went to the ballet and, at the end, a stranger sitting near me suddenly turned and exclaimed to me “I just love to see what the human body can do!” Ballet, contemporary dance, circus arts and martial arts movies all show us just what a highly talented and trained human body can do, and in Kids from Shaolin in general, and in this final fight scene in particular we are shown the human body engaged in true, gobsmacking virtuosity.