The Ten Tigers of Guangdong or Kwangtung were a group of ten kung fu masters who lived in southern China during the 19th Century Qing Dynasty. At times, their fighting skills recalled the styles of the better known Henan Shaolin Monastery of Mount Song, although they had lineage to the Southern Shaolin Monastery of the Fujian Province due to the connection between these two Monasteries. While much of their reputations had been enriched by folk legends passed down from generation to generation, these ten men were highly respected and considered as the greatest boxers in the Guangdong province during the Qing era.
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This movie primarily focuses on one of the Ten Tigers, Liang Kun (Louis Fan Siu Wong), with Su Can or Beggar Su playing a supporting role. The other eight tigers do not make an appearance. Both Liang Kun and Su Can are skilled in the Hung Gar Kuen fighting style, but they each have their own distinct techniques that they have honed. Liang Kun is renowned for his incredible strength and powerful leg stance, earning him the nickname “Iron Bridge Three.” He also created the Iron Wire Fist technique, using iron rings on his arms to enhance his combat abilities.
Constantly picked on by a local rich kid and bully, Hu Da Hai, while growing up in a small village, the younger Liang and his two closed friends had a terrible childhood. Traumatized by the bad experience, he decided to run away and seek shelter in the Shaolin Temple where he could learn kung fu and therefore fight back. Many years later, he has indeed mastered the Hung Kuen technique but seeing that he was too reckless to continue his training, the Abbot had to expel him. After returning back to his childhood village in Guangdong and reunited with his old friends, he learns that Hu is still a bully but this time he is able to fight back. However, due to their untimely and tragic death and his involvement in a conspiracy with an evil cult that uses poison to brainwash and recruit Jianghu’s martial artists, his dream of living a peaceful life soon comes to an end.
As always, the dependable and charismatic Louis Fan Siu Wong, though a bit too old to play the young Liang Kun, still puts on a decent and impressive performance nonetheless. He is obviously much more convincing in the action sequences as compared to those tender romantic moments with his childhood lover Bai Siao (Zai Mi Re). Unfortunately, the inclusion of another Guangdong Tiger, Su Can (Lau Sek Ming), the Drunken Master or Beggar Su does not add up to much. A pity that the pairing of these two masters failed to take the movie to another exciting level, especially in the action department.
Shaw Brothers veteran Norman Chui seems to be having a good time portraying Hu Ching Ying, the kind and charitable rich man from the village with a hidden identity, and too brief end fight with Fan is still impressive. Edward Chui, who plays his on-screen son Hu Da Hai, the town bully, is actually his real-life son and the pair works well together. Elsewhere, Jiang Xi Rao and Wu Guo Bao play a couple of Miao ethnic and provide the movie’s more miss than hit light comedic moments.
Visually, the movie looks good, the outdoor locations like the mountain ranges, rivers and forests sure look epic. Although credited as the director, Yan Guang Xing also gets a helping hand from Huang Guan Bao and Jin Zhe. However, I think the later are more involved in the action department which is sadly another poor aspect of the whole production. Being basically a kung fu movie, the combat sequences are a real letdown, being repetitive, boring, uninspired and uninventive in design.
The soundtrack is just as bad, cliched and pedestrian. Take the kung fu demonstration of Liang and the monks in the Shaolin Temple for example, a traditional scene accompanied by heavy electric guitar rips that is so out of place. Then there is the use of piano and violin to emphasize sadness during those tragic moments which is too obvious and overstated.
Overall, this latest take on how Liang Kun achieved his Iron Fist style of kung fu is a huge disappointment due to the cliched plot and the lack of solid action to back it up. On top of that, the acting is pretty average and even wooden at times, especially from the supporting cast. In general, there is nothing here to surprise or entertain the viewers and Fan can certainly do better with his skills elsewhere. However, clocking in at a running time of less than eighty minutes, this is perhaps the movie’s only saving grace.