The leader of the Iron Boat gang trains his young recruits to be cold-blooded killers... to be living weaons, devoid of emotions such as mercy or compassion. His criminal organisation is hence widely feared and despised. The best of his warriors are the 13 Eagles. One of them, Black Eagle Chik Ming Sing (Ti Lung), is wounded during a mission and taken under the care of a kindly family who nurse him back to health. This glimpse of a different kind of life is not enough to turn his loyalty from his leader, until a subsequent mission ends up targeting the very family that saved him.
He leaves the gang and tries to flee, but the gang pursues him. Dying of thirst in the desert, he is saved by a wandering fighter who goes only by the name "Homeless" (Fu Sheng). Black Eagle is fearful and distrustful of his saviour, but the two end up fighting side by side when they are ambushed by the Iron Boat Gang, and Black Eagle reluctantly agrees to team up with the mysterious fighter. Realising that escaping the gang is going to be impossible, they decide to take the fight to them instead.
As the two travel together, Black Eagle reveals more of his story to Homeless, whilst the latter keeps his true identity close to his chest - but it gradually becomes apparent that he has his own motivations for wanting to see the Iron Boat gang come to harm.
THE AVENGING EAGLE is one of the more highly regarded Shaw Brothers films, thanks to some solid character development, strong direction from Sun Chung and above average fight choreography featuring a variety of interesting weapons. Ti Lung is perhaps a little stretched by the moral ambiguities and conflicts of his character, but Fu Sheng gives one of his best performances - his character gains depth whilst maintaining an appropriate amount of mystery, and he is never annoying (I feel the need to comment on this whenever Fu Sheng manages to achieve it!).
The story isn't the most complicated or profound tale that was ever commited to screen, but the interplay between the travelling companions is well developed. Events move along at a brisk pace thanks to the numerous fight scenes, which feature some well above average choreography from Tang Chia and Huang Pei-Chi. Ti Lung fights with a 3 section staff, whilst Fu Sheng tends to fight open handed or by taking weapons from his opponents... though he has some hidden weapons for use when required. Ku Feng, as the leader of the Iron Boat gang, fights with a pair of a golden gloves tipped with deadly talons, in keeping with the Eagle theme of the gang (why they are known as the Iron Boat Gang is never explained).
THE AVENGING EAGLE doesn't really add anything new to the martial arts genre, or to the Shaw Brothers studio's particular interpretation of it. However, it is a strong example of the style that is sure to appeal to fans.