Knockabout (1979)

KnockaboutSammo Hung directs and choreographs a movie in which he originally was to be the main star. We look at how then new-comers to the Hong Kong action scene, Yuen Biao and Leung Kar-yan, got their starts in the industry.

Cast

Sammo Hung plays a beggar with no name, who is neither everyone’s fool! Yuen Biao stars in his debut movie as Yipao – a small-time crook. Leung Kar-yan stars in one of his earliest movies as Taipao – Yipao’s older brother. Lau Kar-wing plays Jia Wu Dao, an unassuming character with a dark past. Lee Hoi-San of ‘Project A’ and ‘Magnificent Butcher’ fame also makes a brief appearance.

Plot

Yipao and Taipao are two small-time crooks who are fairly adept at conning people out of their money. The pair are always making money, but then stupidly lose it afterwards. Trouble has them fighting for survival and although they can handle themselves, it doesn’t take long for them to struggle when the stakes rise! After conning one person too many, the pair have to rethink their fighting ability in order to survive. When they cross the path of Jia Wu Dao, a hilarious scene occurs – where Yaipao shows why you should never cross your hands after the old man plays the classic game of “stop hitting yourself” with him! After their hiding, they beg him to take them on as his students. Reluctantly, he agrees as they follow him around in comedic Laurel and Hardy fashion. Whilst training the two, Jia Wu Dao tells them that ordinary people shouldn’t be a problem for them anymore! With a new found confidence and cockiness, the troublesome two head into town. As they arrive, they scour the marketplace for trouble to get into. It doesn’t take them long to find what they are looking for and chaos ensues!

As they are about to leave, a stranger who they helped prior to the rumble, starts commenting on their new abilities. The stranger is about to ask them something, however, the two are on a high and dismiss him as they head off in victorious fashion.

Feeling good about themselves they return to an earlier scene in the movie to make up for lost opportunity. It is here that not only do they get into trouble again but, leave with nothing as the Beggar interferes in their fortunes once more. This leads to a comical encounter between the three with the strange Beggar besting both of them!

As they head home holding their aches and pains, they are paid an unexpected visit at their teacher’s place by some strangers. As their teacher is not at home to greet them, the two entertain them in the only way they know how – awaiting their master’s return. This battle shows the brothers opponents’ displaying Phoenix Eye (Knuckle) and Buddhist Palm technique. Rare styles indeed! Having just missed them on his return, the two inform their teacher that the visitors left a message to meet him at a local inn. After a confrontation takes place between all five, in which the brothers comically destroy Lee Hoi-san they and their teacher head off to a restaurant to celebrate their victory. However, their teacher says to go on without him as he will catch up after he has finished one last thing. During their wait at the restaurant, the two see again the stranger who praised their fighting abilities at the market the day before. It seems that this man is looking for a few people and he has posters of them. As he is spotted by Taipao and called over by Yaipao, he starts to make his way over to talk to them about his predicament. Being the fools that they are, they don’t realise that these are wanted posters and proceed to blab Jia Wu Dao’s whereabouts! The stranger makes his way to their teacher’s house to have some words!

As time passes the pair wonder what is taking their teacher so long. Yaipao and Taipao are hungry and with food already on the table, Yaipao decides to go back home to see what is taking his teacher so long to come to the restaurant…it’s clear from what happens next that it’s a decision he will live to regret!

Action

Knockabout introduces us to Yaipao and Taipao as street fighters. Taipao knows a few moves to protect himself, however, Yaipao is pretty useless with the two getting into a few situations that leave them scrapping as a last resort.
It is when they cross the path of the silver haired man that they get a professional spanking. He easily dispatches them both in comedic fashion!

The market place brawl is a platform for the two to show off their new abilities. Yaipao shows some quality kicking techniques while Taipao, shows his basketball-training-hand-techniques. Yuen Biao displays heavenly kicking abilities while, Leung Kar-yan shows off his unique hand techniques. Great stuff!

The later sequence is a re-match with the two getting their share of revenge on those who wronged them before. This is where a brawl erupts leaving the place in total destruction and letting everyone know who’s boss!
Thereafter is the fight between their teacher and the stranger with the posters portraits. This fight is fairly even until their teacher shows why he is to be feared! Jia Wu Dao is deadly with his surprising technique. Leung Kar-wing is truly magnificent!

In a turn of events Yaipao is now on the streets and rocks up to a run down house, coincidentally being used by the Beggar who caused him trouble throughout the movie. After arguing, a fight commences which is really just a showcase for Sammo Hung’s abilities. Sammo Hung amazes me whenever I see him. For a big guy he moves like lightning!

Later at the market again, Yaipao sees someone he is after with a passion! This leads to a confrontation in which although he has made rapid progress, he is still clearly no match for his opponent. Yuen Biao shows us why he is regarded as the best acrobat in Hong Kong cinema, probably even to this day. This prepares us for the final showdown!

Now this battle is truly tiring mainly because a lot of it is based on Yaipao’s training. This fight brings forward the silver haired fighter’s shadow technique which Yaipao has only ever seen once before! Not only that but he is seriously talented at fighting with a long smoking pipe! Most of this fight happens inside a small hut which gives the feeling of claustrophobic combat! This continues for a while with exchange after exchange from both sides, finally spilling outside onto the green. It is here that Yuen Biao showcases his amazing acrobatic attributes for the world to behold! In a carefully rehearsed sequence between Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, we see that the silver-haired man is just not as fit against the pair. They proceed to exact justice on him by way of a cleverly rehearsed and literally thorny ensnare…

Knockabout promo


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Summary

This movie is Yuen Biao’s first movie role ever and is one of Leung Kar-yan’s first movies as well. This is a great and entertaining start to both of their careers and shows why they are truly greats of Hong Kong cinema. Now this movie is huge fun, filled with comical laughs, high intensity training and fight sequences. Sammo Hung knows how to make funny and comical faces, which I’m sure will have many of you trying to imitate him. Everyone pulls their weight here and you get plenty of bang for your buck, if you’re a martial-arts action fan, don’t miss out -go and get this memorable and engaging movie now!

Trivia

  • Did you know that Sammo Hung gave Yuen Biao the leading role for this movie?
  • The character of the Beggar had to be written into the story as Sammo Hung was to originally play the part of Yaipao?
  • Leung Kar-yan had no acting or martial arts experience before he started appearing in movies!

Film Rating: 8.5/10

Trailer

Amardeep Sidhu is a (very!) long time martial arts movie fan. On watching "Enter The Dragon", at five years old, became fascinated with Bruce Lee and by eight was hooked on the main man (Jackie) CHAN's movies! He has studied Taekwondo as his primary base, as well as mixed shaolin kung-fu, southern praying mantis, wing chun and capoeira. He is a keen movie watcher with a serious appreciation for fight choreography!

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