Kung Fu Kids Break Away (Taiwan, 1980)

While this classic kung fu film is meant to highlight the kid actors, they are overshadowed by the appearance of legendary Korean kicker Casanova Wong.

San Mao, a young acrobat and vagabond, hitches a ride with a farmer to a local village. There, he accidentally draws the wrath of Kou Pu-li, a mischievous young con artist whose attempt at pretending to be a beggar fails miserably. When the two cross paths, it starts out with Kong threatening San Mao, who performs in small shows for money. However, when Kong realizes how good San Mao is, the two soon form a friendship.

With Hsiao Cha-meng, San Mao and Kou Pu-li, the latter training in kung fu under San Mao, perform for the crowds. Hsiao gets the attention of a young man whose father, Chu, runs the village. While Chu runs the village with an iron fist and is seen by the townsfolk as greedy and notorious, Chu’s son is more righteous and level-headed. However, what Chu soon realizes is that a righteous fighter named Black Eagle has come to town to stop Chu and his reign of terror once and for all. With the help of the youngsters, Black Eagle is ready to seek justice.

This Taiwanese kung fu comedy has its ups and downs. Directed by Yu Kan-ping, this was meant to showcase the martial arts talents of fifteen-year old kung fu wonderkid Huang I-lung of The Thundering Mantis and The Sleeping Fist fame as well as the dramatic and comedic talents of Ou Ti, who at first comes off as extremely annoying but grows as he progresses. The two convey the classic rivalry turned friendship angle as young warrior San Mao (based on the Zhang Leping comic character) and Kou Pu-li. The film also has two subplots mixed in that connect the film as a whole.

The first involves a young female vagabond and boxer named Hsiao, played by Chang Hai-fen, who has a serious crush on the villain’s good-natured son and the two embark on a romance. The second involves a mysterious rebel fighter named Black Eagle, played by legendary kicker Casanova Wong, and his attempts to take on the villainous warlord Chu, played by Eddy Ko, best known to Western audiences as Mr. Hong in 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4.

As for the martial arts action sequences, they are choreographed by Pan Yao-kun (who also appears in the film), and they are pretty much what you would expect in a film of this caliber. We get to see Huang’s amazing acrobatic skills, Chang Hai-fen getting to do a little bit of fighting, and of course, Casanova Wong’s amazing kicking skills. The finale is a juxtaposition of two fights, one pitting Wong against Ko and the other pitting our child heroes and Chang against Ma Chiang, who plays Chu’s bodyguard. The finale is the highlight of the film when it comes to its action as the rest of the action is pretty redundant.

Kung Fu Kids Break Away is a pretty run-of-the-mill kung fu film starring child actors who ultimately get overshadowed by the kicking prowess of Casanova Wong. Nevertheless, the finale, having two fights juxtaposed, looks pretty good here.

WFG RATING: C+

An East Asia Film Co. Ltd production. Director: Yu Kan-ping. Producer: Chow Fu-liang. Writer: Yu Kan-ping. Cinematography: Liu Wing-fai. Editing: Huang Chiu-kuei and Cheung Kwok-kuen.

Cast: Huang I-lung, Ou Ti, Chang Hai-fen, Eddy Ko, Casanova Wong, Ma Chiang, Suen Lam, Chin Ti, Julie Lee, Wang Hsiao-hu, Pan Yao-kun.

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