Every Friday, the group gets together and talks about a wuxia, martial arts or related action movie for Wuxia Weekend.
Last night, I spoke with Lady Cao Feng and Kenny about the Angela Mao movie The Tournament. Like Hapkido and When Taekwondo Strikes, it also stars Carter Wong and Sammo Hung. Made in 1974 and directed by Wong Fung, with action choreography by Sammo Hung, The Tournament is about the daughter of a martial arts school master who returns from Thailand in disgrace, after one of his students dies in a Muay Thai match. She goes to Thailand and enters the ring herself to help restore her father's name and the reputation of their school.
This is a film for people who like the fights but it also has a story about the role of face and reputation in martial arts that pits the the more open-minded Angela Mao's Lau Siu Feng against the traditionalist martial arts association. She is willing to learn from the loss in Thailand in order to improve her Kung Fu, while the Martial Arts Association members are reluctant to examine the defeat.
The Tournament is reminiscent of movies like Duel of Fists (an "Iron Triangle" film starring Ti Lung and David Chiang, directed by Chang Cheh) and King Boxer (an early Kung Fu craze movie with big studio distribution through Warner Brothers, featuring Lo Lieh). This movie not only has Kung Fu versus Muay Thai, there is also a rival Japanese school that uses the loss as an opportunity to take over the school.
The fight choreography is high quality and comes in relentless waves. Early in the movie Angela Mao faces off against the students from the aforementioned Japanese School, and faces the Martial Arts Association immediately after her victory. The fight with the martial arts association is perhaps the best in the movie, beginning with a duel against Sammo Hung's character, followed by staggered battles with other members that culminates with a glorious match atop wooden posts (see above image).
In Thailand, the boxing feels more authentic than previous films in my opinion. The matches themselves are still injected with a bit of Hong Kong cinematic style, but the fighters look like they know Muay Thai and the training includes methods you would see in a real Thai Boxing gym.
The Thai boxing matches are an interesting change of pace, that keep the action from feeling repetitive. There is also a perilous fight in ancient Thai ruins when one of the enemy fighter's managers decides to kidnap the daughter of their contact in Thailand to recoup the money from his losses.
The Tournament is a great demonstration of Angela Mao's talents, and it gives her a chance to showcase a character who can not only fight her way out of a problem, but think her way to victory as well. It also has stand-out performances from Carter Wong and Sammo Hung.
You can hear our discussion of the movie on our podcast: