~Lady Cao Feng
“Yeah. Our people being so competent and all.”
Upon his return, Leopard wins big (money and a house) at the new Iron Flag gambling house. Trapped in a soaked cow ligament net, Leopard gets a rest from all the action. For a change of pace, Tiger and Fierce Eagle battle to the death. Tiger begins the fight by using his flag with the fabric rolled tightly and wields it like a spear. Before Fierce Eagle can even grab his Kwan do, Tiger is cagy and thrust his flag at the “disobedient” Eagle. Once both men are armed, the delicate dance begins with Tiger on the attack and Fierce Eagle furiously trying to deflect each stab. Despite all of his dodging and a flip, Tiger manages to hit Fierce Eagle quite hard 3 times with the pole portion of the flag. Eventually Tiger has had enough of this and unfurls his flag. This is his signal that it is time for the nonsense to end and your death is eminent. Tiger quickly wraps Fierce Eagle up in the fabric, guides him toward Flying Eagle and unwraps him as if he is a gift. Tiger then swipes at Fierce Eagle’s feet causing him to jump and land perfectly on his back in front of Flying Eagle, who unceremoniously stabs his “friend” in the back (I meant sliced open his stomach.
“Chief had great foresight and knew you would rebel…”
After saving Leopard from a horrific death, Flying Eagle tangles briefly with 3 of the 4 senior flag bearers. Using his suddenly clean double swords, the lone Eagle puts up a very short fight. The first flag bearer guides the Eagle into the path of his awaiting brothers. The other two use their unfurled flags to trap the Eagle so the first can stab him.
The two who side with Tiger dispatch Leopard’s loyal brothers so they can complete their mission. However, Monkey and The WRR intervene. You can tell these flag bearers are not in the same league as Tiger, Leopard, and Monkey as their flag skill is noticeably weaker. Not only is the use of the flag as a weapon more awkward for them, their defense against them is pretty much nonexistent. The flag bearer who fights the WRR is able to counter his spear for a few moments until he he is forced to bump into his partner. Lui Bao (the other flag bearer) is able to keep the Monkey on the move, allowing Monkey to show off his flipping skills which we have not seen so far in the film. After the flag bearers collide they unfurl their flags in a display to suggest they have had enough. The one FB swipes at the WRR who throws his mini spear under the flag, catches it on the other side and kills his youthful opponent. I thought this was a pretty cool move that showed how inexperienced these men are. Lui Bao’s flag waving is the catalyst for Monkey to showcase how he earned his nickname. He effortlessly jumps and flips out of the way of the furiously waving flag bearer. Monkey effortlessly disarms the young man and turns his own flag against him. Again his experience defending against the flag is his downfall. Monkey trips him, sweeps him up into the air and nails him to a column with his own flag.
“Not reliable, isn’t it?”
Tiger sends the remaining 2 flag bearers to fetch Leopard, Monkey and the WRR. The 5 men exit the brothel and walk into another trap. Archers and swordsmen are waiting but Leopard’s loyal followers use very basic flag waving skills to save their friends from the arrows while wiping out the archers. The pair jump up to the balcony to attack the swordsmen, who barely use their swords, and kill a few more archers. The flag bearers fall from the balcony followed by the leaping swordsmen who are impaled before the loyal flag brothers take their last breath.
“I suppose you 2 big fellas won’t let her risk her life.”
Lan Xin, the WRR’s favorite lady, is being used to pit him against Leopard. The WRR doesn’t fall for this like the chivalrous Leopard but request she be set free then he will fight. Leopard furls his flag as the WRR prepares to duel. The 2 are evenly matched as the WRR’s mini spears are able to block the long range of the flag. Both men use quick jabbing motions to try and gain the upper hand. However, their opponent is just as fast in blocking the other’s deadly moves. Eventually, Leopard releases the fabric of his flag so that he can get his frenemy off balance. The fabric causes the WRR to duck, jump and roll out of the way to no avail as Leopard is able to pin WRR to the ground with the spear tip pointed at his throat.
The unimpressed Tiger watches the joust and believing the WRR is about to die, removes his cape and reaches for his own flag to take on the victor. Leopard allows the WRR to get up and their duel continues as the angry and in total disbelief Tiger watches. After some more evenly matched sparring, the WRR is able to catch Leopard off guard. As Leopard tumbles away, the WRR is close behind and when he stands, the Leopard has a mini spear pointed at his throat.
As the WRR is lowering his mini spear, a furious Tiger hurls a flag straight through WRR with such force, the flag stick into the tree! Luckily, Leopard is able to escape, thwarting Tiger’s plan to kill two with one spear yet again. WRR turns and weakly throws one of his spear at Tiger who easily deflects it by swirling his flag.
Leopard and Tiger finally begin their death duel with the fabric rolled around their poles. Both men are fervently slashing, jabbing and slicing at each other as they spin away from blows that come dangerously close to ripping open flesh. At one point, they catch the others flag in one hand and release so that they have exchanged weapons. Tiger is able to keep up with Leopard’s jumping and tumbling to avoid being hurt. Finally, Tiger unleashes his anger and flag when he throws it into the air causing the fabric to unrolled. This is our que that the chief has had enough and is ready to put an end to this situation. One of my favorite moves is when Tiger jumps into the air and becomes perpendicular to the ground. The tip of his flag catches the fabric of Leopard’s flag tearing it into two pieces. When the Tiger has the leopard on the run, Monkey jumps into the action. Monkey deploys the tip of the spear the now deceased WRR had given him for the critical moment. Tiger uses a bamboo basket to catch the projectile. The brothers continue their battle until Monkey is able to unleash the last secret of the spear, thin flying needles. Tiger’s basket is able to catch the needles which become lodged in his chest. Amazed he was struck, an unfocused Tiger becomes careless and is swept up by his brothers’ flags. Tiger is pierced by both tips and succumbs to his injuries.
“You are such a genius.”
The ultimate weapon of the film in my opinion is the mind. The use of strategy by both Tiger and the WRR is impressive. The combatants were playing chess with living pawns. Tiger was willing to sacrifice all his pieces in order to be victorious and discounted the hidden strength of his opponents. The WRR knew the value of keeping a closely guarded secret and he knew the strength of his pieces. Tiger’s dismissal of Monkey as an asset was what ultimately brought his death.
Chang Cheh’s choice of flags as the feature weapon was brilliant. The flags afforded Chiang, Kuo and Lu the opportunity to demonstrate through their choreography their opera strengths. From the looks on the Venoms’ faces, guys wielded their flags with ease and power unlike their younger counterparts who seemed to struggle. In some shots, Lu’s expression is pure fury. Also, Kuo and Chiang were able to showcase their flipping and jumping as Lu feverishly waved his flag. The spinning these guys could do was absolutely amazing. Slow motion enhanced the beauty of the flags swirling around them as they maneuvered around each other was gorgeous. Their flag scenes are well choreographed dances. Another reason I enjoy this movie is I can tell Lu Feng is having a great time with this character. There are few scenes where he smirks but you think he could go into a full on laugh but it would be inappropriate. This movie was tailor made for my 3 favorite Venoms!
Legalese: All images copyright Celestial Pictures and their respective owners. No infringement is intended or presumed. We encourage you to seek out these films through official channels. *