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Arhats In Fury
cast: Lau Jan-ling, Go Hung-ping, Ho Fook-sang

director: Wong Sing-lui

90 minutes (15) 1985
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Prism Leisure 55th Chamber DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Tom Cropper
Watching this film you feel transported back to a small cinema in the mid 1970s; the sound is terrible and the image grainy - all that's missing is a pre-movie add for the Tandori round the corner. In fact, Arhats In Fury (aka: Ba bai luo han) was made in the mid 1980s - filmed on the Chinese mainland as a co-production with Hong Kong, but in style it's definitely a throwback to old school martial arts flicks of the previous decade.

Zhi Xing (Lau Jan-ling) is a Buddhist monk with attitude. He can't help falling foul of his elders - a curious group kung fu, non-violent, monks. However their pacifism does not extend to their treatment of rule breakers. Any indiscretion is met with torture or exile to the wilderness. As the film opens, Xing and his master are returning from one such exile, only to find the temple and the nearby village under threat from an army of Jins. Breaking his order's rules of non-violence, he saves the temple and the village by royally kicking ass. However, if he was hoping for gratitude, he is to be sorely disappointed as the Abbot orders him tortured for breaking the rules forcing him to flee to the nearby village.

Despite a slow start the action, when it comes, is good enough to stand tall against any other film of its genre. It lacks the punch and gloss of Hong Kong films, but still boasts a number of lavish set pieces such as a scene in which he calls in a horde of monkeys to fend of the invading band of Jin. However, any enjoyment derived from watching Arhats In Fury is tempered by clear signs of communist party ideology that are stamped on the film; particularly in the clear hostility to religion, and Buddhism in particular. The monks are clearly portrayed as cowards, refusing to fight not out of a sense of religious piety, as much as a desire to save their own skins. As such it's very difficult to escape the feeling that you're being preached to throughout the film.

The DVD features a very scratchy print, plus a theatrical trailer, plugs for future releases and also a selection of languages which means you can watch in Cantonese and Mandarin, with subtitles, instead of the rather irritating dubbed English.

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