Hapkido (1972)

Directed by
For martial arts fans
Reviewed by Simon on 2006-10-07

It's 1972 and Fist Of Fury has set the box office and the Hong Kong public alight with national(ist) pride. Naturally there are going to be a slew of films featuring real martial artists, righteously furious Chinese and terribly, terribly evil Japanese. HAPKIDO is one such film, spicing things up a little by importing some genuine Hap Ki Do masters from Korea (Ji Han-Jae and Whang In-Shik) and giving the most-lead role to a female fighter (Angela Mao). A young Sammo Hung gets one of his biggest roles to that date, and also provides the action direction.

I can't say I'm an expert on martial arts styles, so I can't say how accurate the Hap Ki Do used in the film is, but I imagine it to be very much so, because the action in the film is quite distinctive. A fair amount of time is spent explaining some of the signature moves, largely involving joint locks/breaks and some Tai-Chi like redirection of your opponents force. Ji Han-Jae is apparently one of the top practitioners, and his demonstrations in particular are very convincing. Whang In-Shik is more impressive physically, though, with great power and speed. I have to admit to being less fond of Angela Mao than many others are... I have no doubt she is the "real deal" in terms of martial arts skills, but she seems strangely awkward and ungainly to me. I prefer the more fluid, graceful and perhaps feminine martial arts of people like Kara Hui, Yeung Jing-Jing and Michelle Yeoh... Angela fights too much like a man!

There's quite a good supporting cast of martial artists, including Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao in there somewhere

Outside the martial arts (both physical and philosophical representations) I guess the film doesn't have that much going for it... neither characters or plot have the slightest depth, and production values are decent for the time but not as luscious as a good Shaw Brothers wu xia pian might have been. How much you enjoy the film is likely to be proportional to how much of your liking for martial arts films is the martial arts themselves.

I've actually owned several versions of this film over the years, but they've all been sufficiently lacking in some respect that I never got past the first 15 minutes. It finally got a decent release courtesy of Hong Kong Legends in August 2006, with a nice master provided by Fortune Star. Hopefully more of the early Golden Harvest MA films are set to follow!