One of the early films to showcase the martial art of Muay Thai kickboxing, Angela Mao and Carter Wong take center stage with this somewhat underrate classic kung fu film.
Mao plays Liu Xiao-Feng and Wong plays her brother. When their father owes a debt to some local thugs, they take their younger sister hostage. The young Lau and another friend head to Thailand to compete in some fights in order to repay the debt. When both of the Chinese boxers fall to the Thai boxers, the elder Lau becomes the laughing stock of the Chinese Martial Arts Association. Despite sympathy from the Association head (Kwan Shan), the stress proves too much for Lau, who ends up killing himself.
Xiao-Feng and her brother, saddened by their father’s death, decide they must restore the family name and there is only one option. Despite opposition from members of the Association, Xiao-Feng and her brother decide to go to Thailand to learn the art of Muay Thai. Meanwhile, Karate master Ichiro (Hwang In-Shik) wants the Lau’s property to operate his martial arts school, but the Laus refuse. After fending off Ichiro and his goons, Xiao-Feng and her brother head to Thailand to begin their training in order to seek revenge and restore their father’s name.
The Shaw Brothers introduced Muay Thai in Chinese films with their classic David Chiang/Ti Lung film Duel of Fists in 1971. Three years later, Golden Harvest responded with his film. Taking its star fighting femme, Angela Mao, and teaming her with Carter Wong, this is more than a mindless classic kung fu film. There are some nice bits of drama mixed in that set up the events that involve action. It helps that Kwan Shan (the father of famous Hong Kong actress Rosamund Kwan) helps bring the drama as the sympathetic head of the Chinese Martial Arts Association.
Mao herself undergoes a radical change in the film, especially with her looks. While she kicks some serious butt, she starts out as a pig-tailed obedient daughter and then transforms into a short-haired fighter who combines Muay Thai and Chinese kung fu. Interestingly enough, Mao looks quite nice with the short hair here and still showcases her skills while Carter Wong seems to start out as an underdog only to eventually persevere. However, their motive is not so much avenging the death of their father as it is to honor the family name.
The team of Sammo Hung and Chan Chuen served as the film’s action directors. Hung is one to train in different styles to assist in helping with fight choreography and even has the actors train in the styles (like he had with Hap Ki Do (1972)). Here, we have Chinese kung fu and Japanese karate, but the highlight art of the film here is Muay Thai. To bring some authenticity to the film, director Huang Feng casted real-like Muay Thai champion S. Kolachak and S. Sutinath in the roles of the two Muay Thai champions the Lau siblings face in the ring. Lebanese karate expert George Yirikian plays Ichiro’s main fighter, who takes on Lau in a climactic sequence while Hapkido grandmaster Hwang In-Shik is once again relegated to playing a Japanese karateka who loses big to the heroes in quick fashion.
Nevertheless, The Tournament is a pretty good Angela Mao vehicle. Seeing Mao adapt to using Muay Thai and her trademark kicking skills, combined with some decent dramatic scenes, make this an effort worth seeing.
WFG RATING: A-
A Golden Harvest (HK) Ltd. Production. Director: Huang Feng. Producer: Raymond Chow. Writer: Huangpu Kuan-Ha. Cinematography: Lee Yau-Tong. Editing: Peter Cheung.
Cast: Angela Mao, Carter Wong, Wong Sam, Got Siu-Bo, Hwang In-Shik, George Yirikian, Maria Yi, Kwan Shan, Yeung Wai, Gam Tin-Chue, Chu Gam, Bayan Phansopha.