I’ll come clean, sometimes I see old movies and cringe at the thought of watching them – martial arts movies have come a long way in terms of production value. But if there’s one thing about Kung Fu flicks it’s that some of the best action was captured during this era – and this movie is freakin’ cool!
Ah To (Gordon Liu) is being pushed into an arranged marriage by his father. His future wife is a Japanese woman named Kung Zi. What Ah To doesn’t realise is that Kung Zi is quite well versed in Japanese Martial Arts.
The two get married and start having big arguments shortly after about which is better – Chinese Kung Fu or Japanese Karate. This ends up with both fighting each other constantly and causing a lot of stress. Naturally the two have a falling out and Kung Zi leaves for Japan.
Ah to decides to issue Kung Zi a challenge – if she can defeat him in any one style he will admit Chinese Kung Fu is inferior. Instead a Japanese Warrior reads it and brings a group of men with him, masters of their respective arts, to take up the challenge.
Clash of Styles
This movie really showcases a variety of styles in a very smart manner. Ah To has his first battle when the Japanese men initially arrive, and defeats his opponent in a sword vs sword fight. He then fights a karate stylist in hand to hand combat, and uses Drunken Boxing in a soft vs hard style match.
Facing many other opponents with differing weapons skills and styles Ah To shows off his Chinese Kung Fu styles defeating all opponents.
Contrast in Cultural tradition
This movie highlights not only the difference in martial arts between China and Japan, but simple cultural jestures. During the wedding Ah To kneels while Kung Zi stands. Many of the people at the ceremony criticize Kung Zi for not kneeling and for wearing white – although it’s quite acceptable where she is from.
Small arguments such as sitting at the dinner table (Chinese) or kneeling (Japanese) cause some pretty violent encounters between man and wife (much like real life? just kidding) which elevate into a showcase of weaponry, each supposedly superior to it’s foreign counterpart.
One big misunderstanding between the Japanese and Chinese is the at the end of the first challenge. When Ah To defeats the Kendo master, his sword is surrendered to him. Ah To naturally refuses and leaves, not realizing that it is a show of respect to offer your sword in defeat. Accepting with two hands would make the two friends and could have avoided the whole situation altogether.
After learning of this, Ah To remembers to mention at the end of the movie that he misunderstood the gesture, and of course becomes friends with the Japanese Martial Artist.
Although the movie seems aimed at a Chinese vs Japanese conflict, the more mature characters in the movie (and the main characters at the end) treat the differing styles as a simple cultural difference, and that there is great opportunity for both sides to expand their horizons and learn form the other, a prevalent message at the end of the film.
Martial Arts & Action
This movie has highly technical fight scenes and a large variety of styles and weapons. The fights are relatively exciting, and fast paced.
Gordon Liu’s abilities are obvious – this guy is a real martial artist! He has great knowledge of the stlyes he represented but seemingly his favorite weapon is the spear. His style mixed with what seems pretty authentic Japanese Martial Arts is well performed and gives this movie a seal of high quality.
If you enjoy Kung Fu films, this movie is one classic you should definitely see.
Would I recommend it?
Well, I kinda just did! If you like Kung Fu films, Shaw Brother movies or even just old classics then watch this movie – it’s pretty damn good. This isn’t for everybody though – if you just love adrenaline-rush style fight scenes, this movie may disappoint you. Although the fights are amazing, they’re more feats of great and technical martial arts choreography, and not vicious mindless violence.
Available on DVD
Availability of this movie is pretty slim, there’s no region 2 DVD I
can find, only Regions 1 and 4 – and definitely no Blu-ray!
This is a title that would require a Region Free Player for most countries.
Region 1 (Us & Canada)
Heroes of the East on DVD
Region 4 (Australia & New Zealand)
Heroes of the East on DVD