“Li had no apparent qualms about sending up his image, including Wong Fei Hung. In Last Hero in China / Huang Feihong Tieji Du Wu Song (1993), Wong’s famous clinic and school, Po Chi Lam, is placed next door to a brothel; during the climax, he fights dressed as a chicken while practicing ‘Chicken Beak’ kung fu.” Leon Hunt, Kung Fu Cult Master, p. 147
This is a Wong Jing film – he wrote and directed it. Abandon all hope ye who enter here as far as good taste and political correctness are concerned*. But if you suspend your disbelief and notions of good taste then Wong Jing films can actually be quite good fun. Be prepared to be shocked, offended or embarrassed. Wong Jing wants to make you cringe. After viewing a few of his films I have long suspected that he has a desire to bring down his art form from the inside. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps if one delved back far enough into his past one would discover an instance when he was romantically rejected by an actress** or had his first student films derided by his professors or had an uneasy relationship with his film director dad or was just dropped on his head when he was a baby. For the most part it is usually a futile exercise to pathologise celebrities, but with Wong Jing perhaps it’s different. Had Sigmund Freud happened across Wong and his fixation on smut, scatology, property destruction, and general rudeness he would no doubt have screamed with delight and started clearing the decks.
Actually this film isn’t as crass as some of Wong’s worst, but it still is pretty silly. Last Hero in China is chockers full of the broad humour that is Wong’s stock in trade (but which just doesn’t translate for me). There are lots of stupid sight gags and smart ass comments that sound as if they were scripted by a 12 year old boy the day his balls dropped.
The film has quite a complicated plot that picks it way through a patchwork of gags and action scenes. As well as Li reprising his dignified portrayal of martial arts patriarch Wong Fei Hung the cast features Alan Chui Chung San as the main villain. This guy must have gotten top marks for villainous laughing at kung fu acting school. When I first saw this movie I thought that he was overacting horribly. But this was very early on in my career of watching chopsockies and I didn’t understand that this genre has a lot of stock characters, one of which is the over the top laughing, gurning and declaiming villain. Chui’s performance amuses me now that I understand that he has taken certain performance conventions associated with the stock character he is portraying and is playing them for laughs.
I have written 2 other blogs about this film. One is on the choreography, and the other is about drunken boxing in this and other kung fu movies.
(For a cast list and plot synopsis see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Hero_in_China).
*POP QUIZ FOR YOU: What is the crassest, stupidest and rudest Wong Jing film you have ever seen? Leave your answer in the comments below.
**Probably Chingmy Yau