Monday, January 20, 2014

Brave Archer, The (1977)

Director: Chang Cheh
Notable Cast: Alexander Fu, Tanny Tien, Ku Feng, Philip Kwok, and a cameo by Ti Lung

“The Brave Archer” was always a Shaw Brothers film that caught my attention. It had a rather extensively strong cast, directed by my favorite kung fu director Chang Cheh, and it’s based on the epic novel “The Legend of the Condor Heroes.” It had massive potential to be a rolling kung fu epic! Too bad, generally speaking, it’s one of the worst Shaw Brothers films I’ve had to go through thus far.

When two young boys are separated at birth due to their fathers being slaughtered in a political dispute, they are trained by two separate masters to do battle 18 years later to settle a dispute (?!). When Guo Jing (Alexander Fu) grows to be old enough, he sets off to prove himself as a warrior only to become mixed up with a slew of scary kung fu masters who use him to as a pawn in their own games…can Guo Jing come out as the true winner in the end with his newly found love?

I wish I could truly tell you what “The Brave Archer” is about because, quite frankly, I don’t have a fucking clue what the plot actually set out to accomplish. I know that wuxia films, particularly those based on epic novels, tend to be a little ridiculous with expansive plots and lots of characters, but “The Brave Archer” might just be one of the weirdest and incohesive transitions that I’ve seen. The plot progression is almost like it is being told to you by a four year old with little regard to coherency or flow. It starts off looking to be a political film about two brothers separated at birth only to forced to battle later on, but that plot is quickly dropped and forgotten for a new romantic subplot that includes various ancient kung fu masters. It’s as if there are three or four films all jammed into two hours with no end goal in sight.

The hair style is...almost the same.
To add to the outrageousness of the script, the film has WAY too many characters to justify their screen time. The opening cast list seems to take more time then most characters have on screen (which is little to none for the most) and their constant bickering and dueling gets old by half way through. By the time the end of the film comes about they start throwing in battles just for the sake of it to keep the audience entertained (a bridge battle between two kung fu masters occurs while our hero attempts to out duel his opponent by memorizing text…I shit you not) and it makes for a rather under whelming experience.

"Can we all just stand around and get paid?"
For an epic film from Chang Cheh, “The Brave Archer” is about as muddled and unfocused as one can get. The lead character is flat, the plot is far too complicated (and poorly explained) for the audience to give two shits, and the fights tend to be forgettable. Luckily, it does have a few choice great secondary characters to make it work like a claw fisted blind woman and a giggling beggar. Otherwise, this might be an utterly skippable film on all levels.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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