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The Fearless Hyena
cast: Jackie Chan, James Tien, Sai-Kun Yam, Kuen Li

director: Jackie Chan and Kenneth Tsang

94 minutes (15) 1979
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Trudi Topham
Jackie Chan's output, despite his fine reputation, can be highly variable. His career has been stellar thanks to gems such as The Drunken Master and Police Story. The Fearless Hyena (aka: Hsiao chuan yi chao) is, alas, nothing particularly special. On one hand it's clichéd and formulaic, and on the other it does have Chan's usual high quality when it comes to the (many and often) fight scenes.

The dull and uninspired story goes thusly: Lazy boy (Chan) doesn't study kung fu hard enough. His Grandpa (James Tien) does his best to teach the layabout, but his grandson would much rather gamble, snooze, and get into fights. The past catches up with Grandpa, he gets killed, and lazy grandson goes on a frenetic honing of his kung fu skills to exact revenge. The plot of at least 3,000 Hong Kong movies doesn't get any special treatment here to lift it out of the crowd other than the occasional chuckle-worthy piece of dialogue, and the utterly surreal final fight.

Oh yes. I suspect if someone did what Chan does in that final fight scene in a real fight, his opponent wouldn't keep trying to beat his head in. Any sensible person would realise they're fighting a nutter and run for the hills.

This film 94 minutes, but in places it slows to a snail's pace. The story lurches between high drama and comedy, quite badly at the beginning. What feels like hours of slapstick fights take up at least half the movie and drag it down. Chan is a talented comedian, but in a film that struggles to tell a serious story, the clash doesn't quite work.

It's quite nicely directed. Although one of Chan's earlier efforts, he has a reasonably good grasp of what he's doing. The fight scenes are skilfully choreographed, but again do very little that is new or outstanding. The central problem in The Fearless Hyena is that, at its very core, it's a fundamentally average film. If you're a Chan completist, or haven't seen many Hong Kong films, it's not a bad one to keep an eye out for once it hits the bargain bins. But I wouldn't recommend paying more than a fiver for it.

The only extras on the disc are trailers for other Hong Kong Legends DVDs, some of which do look quite good.

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