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DVD review: Shaolin Handlock (Funimation)
DVD Review Page 1
Author(s) : Sylvia Rorem
Date : 27/7/2010
Type(s) : DVD Review
 Intext Links  
People :
Michael Chan Wai Man
David Chiang Da Wei
Ho Meng Hua
Lo Lieh
Ni Kuang
Tong Gaai
Dick Wei
Karen Yip Ling Chi
Movies :
Shaolin Hand Lock
Companies :
Shaw Brothers
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Shaolin Handlock is a fun 1978 Shaw Brothers film that tells a traditional kung fu tale in a modern way. While far from meaningful, there is enough quality action, attractive Shaw stars and good acting to make this film worth watching. Set aside reality and just enjoy this clever revenge story that centers on a family both empowered and imperiled by their deadly technique, the Shaolin Handlock.

The Movie

The seventies-Shawtastic opening credits promise a rickety, low-budget kung fu movie, but Shaolin Handlock is nowhere near as predictable. Shaw favorite Lo Lieh plays Lin Hao, a mature Chinese crime lord living in beautiful Thailand. After Lin sends an assassin to kill kung fu master Li Bai (Dick Wei) by successfully attacking the Shaolin handlock’s only weak spot, Li’s son Chengying (David Chiang), inheritor of the technique, heads to Thailand to seek revenge. Once he insinuates himself into Lin’s gang, Chengying cleverly deflects suspicion onto Lin’s bodyguard Kunshi (Michael Chan Wai Man), the very man who might hold the key to the Lin and Li families’ dark secrets.

Lo Lieh puts in an unusually humanistic, highly commendable performance that is a real must-see for Lo fans and young fighter Chan Wai Man brings a youthful energy and hard-hitting intensity that compliments the more mature and thoughtful actors Lo and David Chiang. Firmly supported by Dick Wei, Karen Yip Ling Chi and Lak Apichat, the three co-stars deliver an action story that builds up to a fun, dramatic conclusion.

There is something very satisfying about watching an expertly-timed mistaken identity plot unfold, and Ni Kuang’s screenplay is in this respect clever and well-designed. Shaolin Handlock’s weakness lies in its unfortunate first act, which is at times laughably formulaic. However, this awkward start soon makes up for itself. Once Li Chengying arrives in Thailand to seek revenge, things liven up and plot complications begin to unfold at a nice pace. As Chengying’s plans are thwarted by Kunshi at every step, he must continually use his rascally resourcefulness to extricate himself from danger while trying to move closer to revenge. There are some interesting twists, and a fast-paced third act successfully tells two stories at once, making the final showdown doubly meaningful. Hats off to director Ho Meng Hua for his excellent pacing on this intricate story.

The action is strongly grounded in the story. Director Ho and fight choreographer Tong Gaai keep it meaningful, so the succinctness of the fight scenes may disappoint fans who seek extended, gratuitous action. The fight scenes are emotionally charged and range widely from sturdy empty-handed kung fu to girly whip; from the rather silly handlock technique to undercranked boat chases, to the final, desperate three-man brawl. There is nothing flashy, just a lot of solid, meaningful story-action.

Shaolin Handlock is not an outstanding Shaw Brothers film but it is a lot of fun. Almost all of the film’s components mesh well to create an entertaining story that builds to a satisfying conclusion. It is certainly a must-see for fans of Lo Lieh and Chan Wai Man, and easily withstands the entertainment test of time. Sit back, enjoy and above all, have fun.

Warning: this film contains brief frontal female nudity.


dvd specifications

Distributor: Funimation.com/Hong Kong Connection

Region: 1

Languages: Mandarin Mono, English Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English

Format: 2:35.1
Run Time: 89 minutes

1 DVD with unfortunately no bonus features other than a handful of mixed-bag trailers.

Release Date: April 2010

Price: $19.98




The Funimation DVD is the Celestial Pictures anamorphic 2.35.1 widescreen transfer. The restoration ensures a nice picture quality. The sound nicely balances music, dialogue and effects, and the English subtitles are easily readable and error-free. The “New Zealand” English dubbing is surprisingly decent. The preliminary Funimation promotional reel cannot be skipped but can be fast-forwarded. The chapter selection pictures are numerous and small, making selection somewhat difficult but the main menu is simple and easily navigable.

This DVD is a good buy for North American fans.


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