Holy Robe Of Shaolin Temple (1985)

Directed by
Ferocious fight scenes
Reviewed by Simon on 2024-04-07

A villainous government official hatches a plot to take control of Shaolin Temple by replacing the abbot with his own man, and a group of monks are tasked with spiriting away the sacred robe that must be used in the ceremony to swear in a new abbot to prevent it taking place.

Holy Robe Of Shaolin Temple is an interesting co-production, filmed in mainland China with a cast of largely unfamiliar faces (Yu Rong-Guang is the only one who would go on to become a recognisable name) but written, directed, action directed and apparently sung by Tsui Siu-Ming, who had quite an unusual career that took him all over the place at various times.

The plot is largely familiar, a variant of the "Shaolin traitor" archetype that provided a framework for any number of films, and it's unlikely to blow you away with any profound insights into the human condition. The acting varies from really bad to not too bad, with Yu Rong-Guang somewhat stealing the show as the main villain given that the lead is not very charismatic. The cast are mostly there for their martial arts skills, and in that regard they are well cast.

The film features a steady stream of martial arts battles that escalate in ferocity as the film progresses, culminating in a rather fantastic finale where the heroes storm the temple to unseat the usurpers, cross-cutting between large scale brawls and a brutal face-off between the leads and their nemesis. The cast seem to be wu shu trained, which means the fights are reminiscent of the Jet Li Shaolin Temple films, but filmed and edited with sensibilities more in tune with contemporary Hong Kong films.

I'm not sure there's much more to say about the film - it isn't the best of its type, it doesn't add anything particularly new to the genre, but it delivers everything a film called Holy Robe Of Shaolin Temple can reasonably be expected to and the physical virtuosity of the cast occasionally shines bright.