Groundbreaking New Wave Mini Classic!
By Joseph Kuby
from Colne, Lancashire
, 15 Oct 2005
This ain't a bad film despite not being particularly groundbreaking in the story, acting & directing departments. But it has several things which stop it from being another generic/run-of-the-mill chop-sockyouting.
Firstly, the villain is played as a lightly humourous/tongue-in-cheek chap rather than a stern/stone-faced creep that's usually seen in these kind of movies all too often.
Secondly, the story succeeds in not being cliche or predictable. Characters who you expect to play a heavy part in the movie are bumped off and people who you assume are just extras happen to have great importance within the context of the film's storyline.
Thirdly, one of the villains has a home which looks like something from the Flintstones in it's architecture, complete with a waterfall and some nice scenary. So, generally the environment is different than what's usually seen in this genre of film.
Finally, the action has plenty of genuine innovative moments which fully capitalize on Jackie Chan's style of environmental interaction fight scenes (i.e. where the brawlers fight depending on the environment and how they use it to their advantage) rather than just simply adding slapstick to the fight scenes.
This film truly rivals Jackie at his game when it comes to his pedigree of co-ordinating unusual fights of a particularly high dexterity where skill & timing is the focus and where camera trickery & stunt doubles are less emphasized. The finale, in particular, seems to have inspired Jackie Chan's Dragon Lord & Yuen Woo Ping's Tai Chi Boxer as the fight sequence involves the usage of props and ropes to finish off the villain (hence the film's title - Method Man).
Furthermore, what's impressive is that the action goes from being something quite typical of it's production year (1979) to looking like something from the much distant future (i.e. 1985-1995); everything from the camerawork & editing to the undercranking and just the sheer pace of the action (i.e. the amount of techniques performed per second is more faster than the usual static rate at which the choreography moves along during the flicks of this era).
Honestly, when you look at the finale, you would swear that you've just watched something done by Corey Yuen and Yuen Woo Ping.
The set-up to the finale and the usage of POV shots is quite refreshing and done in a smoothly slick way (for some reason it reminded me of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead) rather than the usual dodgy manner which occurs when anything remotely cinematically ambitious is trying to be achieved by the average Kung Fu filmmakers of this period.
I think the key success to a martial arts/action movie is that there has to be a scene which makes you go 'How did they do that?' and this movie has one of them. In one of the training sequences a man has to go collecting a bunch of bricks off one bench and then placing them on another bench and doing the same thing repeatedly. What makes it so awe-inspiring is the way he stacks them against each other - rather than stacking them vertically (as would be expected), he stacks them horizontally as if they were covered in glue; but there's no glue or sticky substance that can be detected so we're lead to assume that the sheer speed & strength of our trainee can stack bricks in this unorthodox fashion.
I also liked the film's attempt at subtlety as we see the protagonist's uncle/teacher contemplating the future of his nephew at night time as he sits down in the murky shadows & dim light for a long period of time (not just in terms of what's alluded to within the context of the storyline but in terms of how the long shot goes on for), especially as it slowly zooms out in a delicate & polite fashion unlike the random hectic mania of the filmmaking often present during Hong Kong (especially Kung Fu) filmmaking of this era.
Besides, any film which has significant influence on a famous US rap group is bound to be worth your time and viewing pleasure.
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