Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Condemnded (1976) with David Chiang and Lily Li

Working from a script from Chang Cheh's screenwriter -- oh no -- David Chiang both acts in, and directs, 1976's The Condemned.

In what looks like a pre-revolution China, David Chiang plays a lovable pickpocket who runs afoul of a town's powerful gang and then gets shipped off to prison.

It's worth noting that film takes its sweet time getting to David Chiang's character. If anything, The Condemned wastes a bit too much time early on delineating the town's villains and the corrupt officials in charge of the prison.

After an introduction to David Chiang's life as a pickpocket, the guy pays a visit to his girl, Baoying (Lily Li), in a nicely shot scene.

Ku Feng -- surprise, surprise -- plays Mr. Sheng, the main villain of the piece.

Gee, I wonder if the end of this will involve David Chiang kicking his ass?

Luckily, 'cause that revenge plot is a tired one, Hu Chin shows up as the madam of the brothel where Baoying works.

Ku Feng's Mr. Sheng wants Lang Yin (David Chiang) to kill the guy's prison roomie, played by Tsai Hung. But Tsai Hung is innocent.

Up until this point, Tsai Hung had been attempting to murder his annoying cellmate but when David doesn't poison the guy, and instead alerts him to the plot, the two team up.

The man reveals his name as Feng Dagang and the two strike the pose -- the handclasp -- shown on the DVD cover.

Why do I think that both David Chiang and Tsai Hung will be kicking Ku Feng's ass at the end of this picture?

They break out of the prison and begin the search for revenge.

So David's Yan Ling tries to go up against Ku Feng alone, fails, and his girl is taken away from in front of his eyes. Not only that, but she gets her top ripped off in an obvious body double scene. Poor Lily Li.

Meanwhile, Tsai Hung's Feng is scouting the same locales on his own and taking out some of the same goons.

In a weird choice for director David Chiang, he has blood run down the lens when Tsai Hung kills a guy in this scene. Not so much that the victim's blood has somehow splattered onto the lens like water, or one of those deals where the screen turns red. No, it's little trickles of blood that run down the lens as Tsai Hung shoves his hand into a guy's neck across the courtyard.

I shouldn't be too hard on The Condemned as the same material in the hands of a director like Chang Cheh would have resulted in a thoroughly heavyhanded film. No, David Chiang keeps things moving, and he doesn't hog the spotlight. He knows his own strengths as an actor and doesn't try to dominate the fight scenes -- his Yang Lin gets his ass kicked while Tsai Hung's guy kicks ass in the subsequent scene.

A standard revenge flick with a nice prison subplot, The Condemned is not a masterpiece but it delivers some good action scenes -- mainly involving a shirtless Tsai Hung -- and has some nice moments from David Chiang in front of the camera.

You can order The Condemned on DVD here.