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cast: Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Leung Kar-yan, Lau Kar-wing, and Wang Kuan-yi

director: Sammo Hung

100 minutes (15) 1979 widescreen ratio 16:9
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Two brothers, Yipao (Yuen Biao) and Taipao (Leung Kar-yan), who make their living from con tricks, manage to lose all their cash and get into trouble with a casino owner. When their plan to rob an itinerant kung fu master (Lau Kar-wing) goes horribly wrong, they manage to persuade him to take them on as his students. That way, they will live at his expense, and learn the best martial arts they've never seen, offering them a whole new career. But their secretive master is being hunted by old enemies and by the police, and their association with him ends in disaster. Determined to avenge his dead brother, Yipao is reduced to training with an apparently mad beggar (Sammo Hung), who favours a fighting style that involves imitating a monkey. Can the two of them bring the killer to justice?

The re-mastered DVD of this classic kung fu movie looks terrific, and offers prolific director Hung's usual, reliable mixture of fun and action. The con that opens the movie is particularly clever, and the two brothers' rivalry offers plenty of opportunity for immaculately timed slapstick. With wandering detectives and comedy beggars, there's plenty of plot to keep you occupied between the action sequences, and the brothers' relationship is touchingly convincing. Things get more serious later on, and the training sequences do go on a bit, but if action is your thing, Knockabout (aka: Za jia xiao zi) won't disappoint you. And let's face it; the sight of two famous action stars leaping around like monkeys is worth the price of admission alone...

The good bundle of DVD extras includes a typically enthusiastic feature commentary by Bey Logan, interviews with Sammo Hung and Leung Kar-yan, a feature on monkey kung fu (no, really!), and a trailer galley. The best feature, though, is definitely the 'promotional concept' - apparently a trial scene for the movie, designed to show off Yuen Biao's impressive physical skills. It's a decent package to accompany a hugely enjoyable film.

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