REVIEW: Martial Medicine Man – American Hwang Fei Hung (2002)

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2002, Z Productions/The Supreme Ultimate Fist

Director:
Dr. Zee Lo
Producer:
Dr. Zee Lo
Writer:
Dr. Zee Lo
Cinematography:
Sam Fong
Dr. Zee Lo
Rich Cascio
Editing:
Kate Johnson

Cast:
Dr. Zee Lo (Lew Jing Fan/Fu Man Chu)
Catherine Damian (Dr. Liz Montgomery)
Sid Campbell (Detective Reginald O’Rourke)
William Appel (Fulshon)
Ava Mendoza (Marilyn)
Brian Vouglas (Weasel)
Steve Baishiki (“Scarface” Ono)
John Lim (Master Lee)

Dr. Zee Lo brings the legend of Hwang Fei-Hung and modernizes it in this film that was meant to be a four-part episodic series.

Lieutenant Lew Jing Fan is the top combat instructor for the People’s Liberation Army. When he learns his teacher, Master Lee, is on his deathbed, he goes to him. Under his dying breath, Master Lee requests that Lew go to the United States to find his son Mickey. Mickey has been missing for three years and if Lew can find him, then it would provide closure for Master Lee’s soul. Lew is given temporary leave due to his impeccable record and heads to San Francisco.

As Lew arrives, he is accosted by three robbers. However, Lew’s martial arts talents get him arrested for assault and battery. However, the arresting detective, Reginald O’Rourke gives Lew a break as long as he doesn’t get arrested again. During his search, Lew offers to help a low-income medical clinic run by only one staff member, Dr. Liz Montgomery. Given room and board, Lew begins to work at the clinic as well as help run a martial arts school. He also learns that Mickey is missing because he is on the run from a local crime lord, Fulshon. When Lew takes on Fulshon’s men, Lew goes to the extreme and hires Japanese assassin “Scarface” Ono to take out Lew once and for all.

Once again, the man known simply as “Dr. Z” returns and this time, he not only brings his grandmaster Bruce Lee to life, but invokes the spirit of Hwang Fei-Hung, the legendary Chinese folk hero skilled in both martial arts and medicine, and gives the legend a modern day update. The film seems a bit like a re-hash of Jet Li’s The Master in certain parts. Dr. Z, or Zee Lo, actually sports a hairstyle similar to Li in The Bodyguard from Beijing. However, he once again shows that he may not be the best actor in the world, but he is a capable martial artist.

While Catherine Damian’s Liz Montgomery is not seen as a love interest but more of a trusted ally when it comes to Lew, it is welcoming to see martial arts legend Sid Campbell on the screen again as the detective who first doesn’t want to see Lew again, but ultimately befriends him and even reveals himself to be a martial arts teacher in his off-time. Campbell even assisted Lo out on some of the film’s fight sequences but more on that shortly. Villains Fulshon and Weasel, played by William Appel and Brian Vouglas, are mere buffoonery while Steve Baishiki makes the most impact as deadly assassin “Scarface”, who lets his Muay Thai skills do the talking for him.

Dr. Z and Sid Campbell were responsible for the fight scenes and it looks like this time, Lo improved on his film fighting skills. Granted, the angles are mostly correct and once again, we get to see him pretty much be America’s version of the Bruce Lee clone. However, there are loads of both undercranking and triple takes that at times, hinder the quality of the fight rather than make it look impressive. It is safe to say that Lo gets an A for effort in terms of shooting fights, but they are more akin to the late 80’s-early 90’s days of B-movie martial arts. While that may not strike a chord with fans of today’s martial arts films, for someone who self-finances their own films and can churn this out, this is quite a step above from Lo’s debut film, The Deadly Cure.

Martial Medicine Man: American Hwang Fei-Hung is ultimately an improvement for Dr. Zee Lo. He seems to have gotten it right here and while the film still has a shot-on-video quality, the fights are okay despite some crazy undercraking and unnecessary triple takes at times.

WFG RATING: B-

This film is available to buy from Reel Asian Films, Dr. Z’s film distribution company.

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