Although this film is a regular watch in my rotation for
kung fu flicks, revisiting this latest 88 Films Blu-Ray of Shaolin Mantis
re-solidifies many of the opinions I carried back when I originally reviewed
the film here at Blood Brothers (please see that review HERE). Shaolin
Mantis is one of the most intimate and effective films he’s ever made.
Sure, everyone will have their favorites, but there is a simplicity and honesty
to the Shaolin Mantis that so many of his other films sacrifice for more
complex plots or ensemble casts.
Centered around the relationship between David Chiang’s Wai
Fung and Cecilia Wong’s Chi-Chi, both of whom know how to play their charms up
to 11 even when the characters are meant to be stubborn or annoying, its
romantic plot is the heart of what makes the film work. All of the fight work,
powerfully choreographed by Lau Kar Leung and Wilson Tong, feeds into the
emotions of their relationship and it gives the film a uniquely interesting
angle on the usual political kung fu conspiracies that fuel the actual
Once the film gets moving, the plot quietly steps to the
back burner for the sake of the romantic relationship that devours the screen.
While the final 45 minutes are pure kung fu classic fights and training montages
(the key one where Wai Fung develops his titular ‘mantis style’) that exemplify
the incredible secondary cast including Lau Kar Wing, Wilson Tong, Norman Tsui,
and a small role for Lilly Li Li-Li that absolutely pops - Shaolin Mantis
sticks to its guns about how the romance seeps into to the meaning of
everything. It’s a choice that makes the entire film dynamic.
This latest release of Shaolin Mantis from 88 Films
is the definitive one, featuring a fantastic interview with David West about
the familial strife within the film and not one, but two commentaries from HK
cinema experts Frank Djeng, Mike Leeder, and Arne Venema. Although the original
Dragon Dynasty disc made the cut previously for US audiences, it’s time to
upgrade to this one.