Review: EASTERN CONDORS 東方禿鷹 (1987) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Review: EASTERN CONDORS 東方禿鷹 (1987)

Review: EASTERN CONDORS 東方禿鷹 (1987)

A group of handpicked convicts -- Tung Ming-Sun (Sammo Hung), Szeto (Charlie Chin), Dai Kong (Cheung Kwok Keung), Dai Hoi (Billy Lau), Yun (Yuen Woo-Ping), Yu (Corey Yuen) and among others -- are led by their lieutenant (Lam Ching-Ying) on a deadly mission deep into the jungle of Vietnam to destroy a large cache of weapons left somewhere after the war. If the convicts succeed the mission, they will granted a freedom and pocketed US$200,000 as well. But the mission is cancelled at the last-minute just after they parachute down from the military plane. Even though the lieutenant knows about this, he insists on continuing the mission. Once they landed into the jungle, they are assisted by a trio of female Cambodian guerrillas (lead by newcomer Joyce Godenzi) to proceed with the mission. En route, they encounter Man Yen Chieh (Yuen Biao), a slick pirate who later assisting them through the thick of the jungle and eventually joining them for the fight.

REVIEW: Highly regarded by HK action fans as one of Sammo Hung's best action movies ever made, EASTERN CONDORS is definitely a cinematic experience described as the Hong Kong version of THE DIRTY DOZEN. The result is certainly unique, with the usual mishmash of a genre you normally expect from an '80s action picture.

Like most of the '80s action picture, this movie suffers from an uneven mixed of result -- the combination of surprisingly serious and intense war genre and usual comedy elements -- are at times incoherent. No doubt this is quite different from the usual Sammo Hung's other action films at that time, especially since it deals with lots of violence and level of intensity that is overall graphic. His depiction of war is rather bleak, with his motley team gets killed off quickly as soon as the movie progresses.

In a change of pace, Hung plays a more straight-faced hero here with most of the humour goes to his co-star Yuen Biao. The overall cast is equally credible, though their characterisation is sadly lacking emotional depth to make us care for them. Not even the presence of Oscar-winning Dr Haing S. Ngor from THE KILLING FIELDS, who plays as the crazed Yeung Lung, is much to shout about here.

All the episodic plot aside, the movie is most remembered for its number of well-choreographed action sequences. Not surprisingly, the fighting scenes are impressive and the particular highlight is the climactic showdown involving hand-to-hand combats that includes Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Joyce Godenzi, Yuen Wah, Billy Chow, Dick Wei and Yasuaki Kurata. A huge hit at the box office (grossing at a respectable HK$21.6 million), this is a must-see action classic for every genre fan.

EASTERN CONDORS may have been a mixed bag of genre mishmash, but this Hong Kong version of THE DIRTY DOZEN remains best known for the impressive fight scenes and recognisable star-studded cast.

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