Master of the Shadowless Kick:

               Wong Kei-Ying                                       review by Bobby Blakey

HBO has already set the standard with their original films, but now they are trying their hands in the world of martial arts with their HBO Asia brand. Filmed in Hengdian, China, these films are HBO Asia’s very first Chinese-language productions and are executive produced by acclaimed Hong Kong director Corey Yuen (The Transporter) and directed by Guo Jian-Yong, who previously choreographed the action sequences for Cradle 2 the Grave, Red Cliff, and the first three films in the Transporter franchise. One of the two films getting the home entertainment release is Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying, but does it offer up the great martial arts action fans are hoping for or will it be a kick that misses its mark?

Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying follows a quiet and honest physician, Wong Kei-Ying spends his life upholding medical ethics and saving lives while avoiding conflicts and politics until he finds himself tricked into assisting Wei, the ruthless and treacherous new governor of Canton, in a bid to wrest control of the city’s opium business from a local gang. When his mentor leaves him with illustrations of the legendary martial art skill Shadowless Kick, Wong must master the skill and use it in a final attempt to take down Wei. The story here is based on those considered to be the best fighters in southern China during the 19th century Qing dynasty, each of the “Ten Tigers of Canton” was a master of a unique martial arts style, from the “Hap Family Fist” to the “Bone Melting Palm.” Their stories have been embellished by folk legends and passed down from generation to generation and this is one of those tales.

 

Here is the thing, knowing that this was a made for TV film I expected a certain production value. For some reason most Asian TV cinema like this have that soap opera look to it and could put some people off. This film had that same look and feel to it, so it does take a bit too really get invested, but thankfully it offers up some pretty decent fights to keep you entertained. I really had fun with this film despite the story being a bit jumbled at times. Unlike the other film in this new release Drunken Fist, I found the majority of this film to be more cohesive and the fights way better. They still offer up more of the great action of the 70s and 80s Kung-Fu films making it stand out more than it might have otherwise.

Outside of the story issues my biggest issue came at the last fights of the film. They offered up some great varying styles, but then cheesed it out when he used the actual shadowless kick making it feel more cartoony that it needed to be. I have a soft spot for all things marital arts good and bad so I might not be the best judge but can tell you it is worth checking out. Just go in knowing it is more of a made for TV movie and enjoy it for what it is.

Witness the birth of a legend with HBO anthology film Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying available now on Blu-ray and DVD from HBO Home Entertainment.