Friday, April 8, 2011

Crippled Masters 3 (1981, Kei Law)

You may recall that I reviewed a film called Crippled Masters 2 a few months ago.  Well, here we have the sequel, featuring more crazy martial arts action from our handicapped heroes Jackie Conn and Frankie Shum.  Conn can't walk and Shum has one diminutive arm (he, or whoever dubbed the film, refers to it as a flipper).  Fists (and political incorrectness) aplenty fly in this wacky slice of Asian cinema.

Jackie Conn and Frankie Shum play two crippled villagers living in a rural town.  They decide to travel to the city of Taipei so Conn can learn a trade to support them.  Shum, the older brother, tries to get a job as a taxi driver (employing his armless-friendly motorbike-taxi contraption) but has no luck.  Shum takes a job as a wood carver's apprentice but is constantly pre-occupied with his dreams of becoming a kung fu expert.  After initially being rejected by the local kung fu master, he proves himself worthy and enters himself in the big kung fu tournament.  In the meantime, Shum tries to become a street performer using his unique skills at balancing stuff and picking up coins with his feet, until a group of gansters rough him up for invading their turf.

Crippled Masters 3 is a much different film than its predecessor. I would say it's original title "Fighting Life" perfectly sums up the story of two down-and-out disabled brothers trying to make a living, despite life's obstacles.  There are some amazing martial arts action sequences but the film is more of a drama overall.  Most of the film highlights the trouble these heroic brothers have finding employment (and paying their bitchy land lady) and trying to prove that they are capable of handling everyday responsibilities.  Unfortunately, some of the over the top preachiness and stabs at political correctness end up being nothing more than preposterous.  I mean, it's a fucking movie about two handicapped kung fu masters!  Show them kicking ass!  This focus on drama over action is probably a disappointment for most fans of the genre, but for the lover of off-kilter oddities, it's mix of drama and action work.  Perhaps the balance could have been a little more equal but it was still a fun watch and witnessing Jackie Conn defying gravity by flying through the air in the final fight is worth the price of admission alone!
Crippled Masters 3 and its predecessor Crippled Masters 2 are both available now from Apprehensive Films, whose catalog features many other weird and wonderful cult films.

RATING:  7/10

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