A random purchase... I figured that with a name that good, how bad a movie could it possibly be? Well... a good gamble! Something of a hidden gem I'd say.
Directed and choreographed by veteran choreographer & bad guy Fung Hak-On, it's obvious that TGDMB had a very low budget, but was a work of sincerity - maybe even love! The consistency and attention to detail in the movie show that a lot of care and effort went into it's production.
The plot has Mark Cheng and his buddy offend some gangsters in a nightclub, then return home the next day to discover that the bad guys have poisoned their fish! Thus begins a bloody tale of revenge and betrayal. Well, admittedly there's rather more than the fish behind the story... notably Cheng & pal getting taken under the wing of Godfather With Principles & A Heart Alex Man. Cheng ends up with the task of looking after Man's daughter (Yukari Oshima) who has returned from Japan with some karate training, and is quite keen to learn some of Cheng's clearly superior kung fu. Despite the title and the opening, more screen time is probably given to Alex Man than to Cheng/Oshima, as he attempts to stick to his principles in the face of a nasty business onslaught from an unscrupulous Japanese rival. The Japanese are not portrayed terribly favourably in the movie:
"In China you have a saying, 'Do no harm unto others'. In Japan, we say the opposite!"
What, all the time? Alex Man was not the perfect choice for the Godfather - his natural sliminess makes him better suited for bad guy roles IMO, and I'd probably have cared more for his plight if he'd been a different actor. Clearly the budget only stretched to B-list (or former A-list past their prime) cast though.
The plot is well developed and explored, and remains logical and consistent for the most part, and always interesting. It's certainly not mold-breaking, but the cliches aren't overplayed too badly. Ultimately the story and the acting are satisfying but not what lifts the movie above the average. As is often the case, it's the action scenes that do this (for me). I'd say they're not just good, but exceptional - in fact I haven't enjoyed or been thrilled by action scenes quite as much in quite a long time. Fung Hak-On has a lot of experience in this field, having worked a lot with Jackie and Sammo back in the 70's, and seemingly having moved with the times very well too. We get a good mixture of 'pure' kung fu forms & styles with looser more modern choreography, including lots of Jackie-esque use of the environment. The choreography and filming/editing of these scenes is top drawer. There's also some pretty intense and acrobatic gunplay in places, and some stunts around vehicles that made me wince for the poor stuntmen (and some obvious dummys). The fights all play out at breakneck speed, but with an attention to the flow that is well above average. Yukari Oshima and Mark Cheng both put in excellent performances, as do bad guys including Dick Wei, Ken Lo and Fung Hak-On himself.
Now perhaps I've over-hyped it too much, and the main reason I enjoyed it so much is because I expected so much less, but I'd say it's definitely a movie that should be in an action fan's collection, and a worthwhile purchase for fans of HK movies in general. The Mei Ah DVD is... well, Mei Ah-esque. No subtitles at all during the opening credits (a lot of dialogue) sets a bad start, but luckily that's as bad as the disc gets. Watchable enough, but as usual make sure you don't read the back of the box before watching the movie!