Top HK stars in modern-day kung fu film set in the U.S.
Brian Camp | Bronx, NY | 11/26/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE CHINATOWN KID (1977) is an excellent showcase for one of the greatest kung fu stars of the 1970s, Alexander Fu Sheng. It also introduced audiences to the five actors who would come to be known collectively as the Five Venoms, following the success of their first starring film, FIVE DEADLY VENOMS (1978).CHINATOWN KID is set mostly in America, in San Francisco's Chinatown, although it was shot at Hong Kong's Shaw Bros. Studio on sets which may not convince many viewers. However, the film tells an exciting rise-and-fall gangster story filled with short, but spectacular, kung fu brawls set in the streets, clubs and gyms of Chinatown. Fu Sheng plays a mainland Chinese refugee in HK who flees to the U.S. to escape the wrath of an angry triad boss after rescuing a girl from his prostitution ring. The boss, played by Wang Lung Wei, eventually arrives in S.F. as well, forcing a showdown that soon escalates to involve two rival Chinatown gangs. Thanks to his courage, cockiness and kung fu skills, Fu Sheng rises up within the underworld but his conscience gets the best of him after a Taiwanese student he had befriended gets hooked on heroin. This leads to an all-out battle with the gang that had taken him in.In addition to Fu Sheng, the major kung fu performers on hand include Wang Lung Wei and three future Venoms, Kuo Chui, Sun Chien and Lo Meng. (The other two, Chiang Sheng and Lu Feng, have smaller roles.) The film's production design captures the wonderfully garish costumes and interior décor of mid-1970s American taste, making it a very different-looking kung fu film. In fact, it feels more like an American gangster movie and looks forward particularly to Brian De Palma's SCARFACE (1983)."