The Lady Is the Boss (1983)

Directed by
Great fights but cringingly dated fashions
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-03-13

When Lau Kar-Leung's kung fu school has to move premises they invite the founder to come back from the USA for the opening ceremony. Grand-sifu is apparently unwell though, so he sends his young American-born daughter in his place (Kara Hui). Kara sets about modernising the school to attract more pupils, much to the disgust of conservative sifu Lau (but to the delight of his students).

Any film directed by Lau Kar-Leung is an instant purchase, no questions asked, so I think the only possible reason I have never seen THE LADY IS THE BOSS before is that I thought it was another name for My Young Auntie, so I didn't pick it up when IVL/Celestial started releasing the Shaw Brothers films on DVD.

The film does have some similarities with MY YOUNG AUNTIE, such as the cast, but this time Kara Hui is the Westernised one and the film is set in contemporary times - in fact it's one of the most 80's films of the 80's, featuring the gaudy outfits and BMX stunts so very unique to the decade. I think this is mostly self-aware and played up to exaggerate the contrast with Chinese traditionalism (as represented by director Lau), but I don't remember the 80's being particularly self-aware so maybe it's completely sincere.

The Lady Is Boss 047

The conflict between tradition vs. modernity plays out much as you'd expect, with each learning something from the other - but it does eventually boil down to Lau Kar-Leung having to save the day with an absolutely ferocious display of classic kung fu technique that really does outclass anything the young 'uns are able to offer, so I guess he's planting his flag on that hill.

That's not to say that Kara Hui doesn't have skills of her own, of course, she easily bests Lau's own pupils and gives Wang Lung-Wei's henchmen more than a run for their money. It's always a pleasure to see her in action.

Unfortunately the culture clash comedy and inter-generational drama that makes up most of the film is pretty mediocre, apart from the odd moment. The film only really comes to life in the fight scenes - especially the climactic battle in a gymnasium that makes good use of the equipment. The best gag of the entire film is when Gordon Liu and Hsiao Ho turn up dressed and fighting like their characters from 36th Chamber Of Shaolin and Mad Monkey Kung Fu respectively.

It's one of Lau Kar-Leung's lesser films, but still one that kung fu fans should watch... eventually.