Hitman in the Hand of Buddha (1981)

HitmanInTheHandOfBuddha_GoldenSwallow_SC36Hitman in the Hand of Buddha tells the story of a country bumpkin who moves to the city to visit his sister and brother in law befriending a local conman on the way. When he discovers that his brother in law is being a bad husband he decides to stick around and help straighten out his problems.

What follows is a tale of rivalry, retaliation and some good old-fashioned revenge. Where you will not only be treated to the delights of Hwang Jang Lee’s immense kicking stylistics but will also witness some cleverly put together action sequences featuring a super cool chopsticks scene!

Contains all the usual fun plot twists that you might expect from kung fu movies of this era including the not to be without, exodus to the Shaolin Temple for some on the job good guy training!

Mix in some sticks, some classic kicks, plenty of flips, trips and the king of kicks and you’ve got a Hwang Jang Lee flick…oh yes.

Hwang Jang Lee stars, directs and produces this feature. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wrote or sang the theme tune either…

Cast

Directed by Hwang himself, this movie features many familiar faces of this Hong Kong movie era.

With a combined action choreography team of Chin Yuet Sang Meng Hoi, Corey Yuen Kwai to thank for the original and exciting fight scenes it’s easy to see where the quality comes from.

Hwang Jang Lee plays our hero, Wong Chin, a country bumpkin whose adventure begins when he moves to a rural town to live with his sister and brother-in-law. His martial arts pedigree is massively impressive having trained the Korean and South Vietnamese military whilst also obtaining a 7th Dan in Taekwondo by the time he was 21. He is best known for portraying the archetypal villain throughout Hong Kong cinemas’ golden period of the 70’s and 80’s.

Fan Mei Sheng takes on the part of Beggar Fan and gives an endearing performance in the supporting role. His portly physique combined with his naturally comedic looks and sharp kung fu skills make him a perfect fit for this role.

Eddie Ko Hung plays our super villain, Tiger, this time around. His convincing performance is tied together by a combination of his kung fu ability and his ability to grow a menacing looking moustache. Neither of which is an easy achievement and both should be applauded. There’s nothing funny about his character though as he terrorises his local district leaving bodies in his wake…

Siu Ming provides much of the comic relief in this offering as the boss-eyed brother-in-law of Wong Chin. Working in a rice shop, his foolish actions bring trouble to his workplace then to his home and family. Luckily he has a brother in law of the calibre of Wong Chin, to help him clear things up!

Tino Wong Cheung, a familiar face from many a Hong Kong action flick plays out sub-villain, Shen Hou. His kung fu is strong. Having acted in 75 kung fu movies in his time including both Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) and Drunken Master (1978) as well as the Invincible Armour (1977).

The supporting cast comprises of many other familiar faces that make-up a well-balanced if low budget, production.

Plot

Kung fu savvy country boy, Wong Chin (Hwang Jang Lee) arrives in town to work with his boss-eyed brother in law Ah Chu at a rice shop. On the way into town our hero Wong Chin spectacularly disrupts a band of pick-pockets intent on relieving a wealthy resident of his cash in our opening fight scene. Shortly after however he himself becomes a victim of a street urchin who helps himself to Hwang’s own wallet. He follows the urchins back to their secret hideout where he confronts the formidable yet friendly Beggar Fan. After an entertaining kung fu exchange the Beggar returns Wong Chin’s money and he goes on his way.

Meanwhile at the rice shop, Ah Chu devises a plot to get more customers and in so doing incites the wrath of a rival rice store owner and his heavies who confront him at his favourite brothel. Wong Chin arrives to save his brother-in-law, but more violence is on the cards when the rivals pay a return visit to Ah Chu’s rice shop with revenge in mind as this rice war reaches boiling point!

The owner of the rival store goes in search of a Hitman to take care of his problem. They hire Mr Shen, “The Snake Killer”, but even he is forced to phone a friend in the form of his boss, the Tiger. While on the lookout for Wong Chin, the dastardly pair visit Ah Chu’s home and bring about the death of his wife.

Wong Chin is confronted by the Tiger and nearly meets his maker only to be rescued by the crafty Beggar Fan who helps Wong Chin get away and sends him to his friend in the Shaolin Temple. Whilst under his wing, Wong Chin is put through some gruelling training methods in true Shaolin Temple style. He also manages to learn a secret style of kung fu from the Abbot who had previously battled with the Tiger, narrowly escaping with his life. By an incredible coincidence the secret style of kung fu just so happens to be perfectly tailored for bringing down the Tiger.

Plucked from the very claws of Tiger by the fearless and formidable beggar. HJL escapes to the safety of the Shaolin Temple. There amongst seemingly endless, arduous sequences of discipline, HJL spies on the monks training and rapidly becomes a dab hand at absorbing their unique skill.

Bring on the final showdown in Tiger’s meticulously kept back garden and you have a spectacular final fight scene on your hands.

Action

Hwang Jang Lee at his best, but this time he’s even better! Taking centre stage as the good guy for a change, Hwang gives us a showcase of leg and stick fighting within which we find some added treats. He performs a variety of triple technique moves that you will find yourself compelled to use that rewind key for, over and over again!

In an impressive opening scene, Hwang Jang Lee beats down multiple attackers with a leg extravaganza. At one stage he is surrounded by 8 attackers in an alleyway. Our hero teaches them all some manners as he dispatches them all in sequence with a tidy, breathtaking display of his kicking ability.

The cohesive storyline of this classic helps the movie to flow and there is action aplenty, and that is more than pleasing! You will find there’s more than enough back and forth fighting between the two rice stores to fill any ones bowl of fu!

One of the most memorable fight scenes occurs when Wong Chin gets invited to a meeting by his rivals and he is faced with snake fighter Tino Wong Cheung. What starts out as a classic Snake Style fight soon becomes a rice wine swilling, chopstick flicking embarrassment with Wong Chin coming out on top. As an added bonus he thanks his rival for dinner…!

This movie is full of classic 5 animal fighting scenes but where Hwang Jang Lee really excels is with his staff fighting skills. There is a good mix of action and comedy to maintain your interest throughout.

The sequences in the Shaolin Temple, involve our hero Wong Chin going through the mandatory back-breaking disciplinary scenes before he gets crafty enough to spy on the monks and learn their secret style. Bring on an awesome showdown with his tormentor and the Abbot that sets Wong Chin on his way to a rendezvous with the Tiger…for an epic finale!

Summary

Often referred to as the King of the Leg –Fighters, Hwang Jang Lee takes on one of his most daring challenges yet, by becoming the good guy for a change. You will recognise him as the bad guy from Jackie Chan’s “Drunken Master” (1978) and “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” (1978).

In this role he plays the part of a country bumpkin who goes to stay with his sister and brother-in-law in a rural town. Whilst trying to sort out his brother-in -law’s problems, he sparks off a whole chain of events which soon see him faced by the deadly villain, Tiger. With the help of a beggar and the Shaolin Temple he finds the skills to fight back. This is one to own for every classic kung fu enthusiast’s collection!

Trivia

  • One of only two films where Hwang Jang Lee played a good guy. The other is Innocent Interloper (1986).
  • Apparently, Jackie Chan thought that Hwang Jang Lee actually kicked too hard! Jackie famously got his front teeth knocked-out by Master Hwang in the final scene of “Snake in the Eagles Shadow”. It was the last time they worked together on a film.
  • Hwang Jang Lee is a Taekwondo Grandmaster holding the rank of 9th Dan.
  • Hwang Jang Lee’s business interests include a Golf Tee manufacturing plant, a Hotel and a Bodyguarding service.

Film Rating: 7.5/10

Mike or simply Drill-bit to his close friends has been hooked on Martial Arts ever since Mr Miyagi made it ok for men to wax. A lifelong Martial Arts practitioner and now Kung Fu Instructor, Mikes punchy reviews take an unusual stance on what you thought you knew!!! If you don't know you better axe somebody!!!

7 Comments
  1. Reply
    Ben Robinson December 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    This sounds so good I am going to order it!

    • Reply
      Mike Heanue December 10, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks for your comment Ben!! Watch this space for more cool Kung Fu movie reviews.

  2. Reply
    John Maitland December 10, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Well written review! Definitely added to my list of films to watch. It’s also made me want to try Hong Kong facelift therapy. Can you recommend a good practitioner?!

    • Reply
      Mike Heanue December 10, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Have you seen my review on Hellz Windstaff that is also here on Kungfukingdom.com?? Both movies are available together on a double bill DVD!!

  3. Reply
    Robert Nicholas December 11, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Really good, Mike, I didn’t know you are as effective with your pen, as you are with your sword.
    Now I have an alternative film to watch this Christmas when Scrooge comes on again …..

  4. Reply
    H Khan December 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Hwang Jang Lee as a good guy sounds so unnatural. But this sounds like it really shows off his kicking skills to the max so will definitely have to look for it.

  5. […] After appearing opposite Hwang Jang-lee in the film, Tino Wong would also appear alongside him in later movies such as “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” and Hwang’s directorial debut “Hitman in the Hand of Buddha”. […]

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