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Eastern Condors

Hong Kong 1986
produced by
Leonard Ho, Jeffrey Lau, Wu Ma, Corey Yuen for Bo Ho Films, Media Asia/Golden Harvest
directed by Sammo Hung
starring Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Joyce Godenzi, Yuen Wah, Lam Ching-Ying, Chan Lung, Cheung Krok Keung, Charlie Chin, Haing S.Ngor, Billy Lau, Corey Yuen, Yuen Woo-Ping, Angela Mao, Melvin Wong, Chin Kar Lok, Wu Ma, Billy Chow, Yasuaki Kurata, James Tien, Dick Wei
written by Barry Wong, action directed by Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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1976: Because the Americans have forgotten a big missile arsenal in Vietnam & want it destroyed, but without getting directly involved, they have one of their American-Asian lieutnants (Lam Ching-Ying) lead a team of American-Asian convicts (led by Sammo Hung) to Vietnam to blow up the place.

But that is easier said than done, as even when parachuting down over the rendez -yous points with a few guerilla girls (led by Joyce Godenzi), the first of them loses his life. Soon afterwards, too, they are found out by the Vietcong, but can stay one step ahead of them, partly thanks to Chieh (Yuen Biao), a Vietnamese who has joined them, because they want to take his buddy Yeung Lung (Haing S.Ngor), a POW who has later been released because everyone thought him to be a loonie, back to America.

Eventually though, they fall into the hands of the Vietcong, because one of the guerilla girls has betrayed them, & the POW-camp is exactly what you would expect from the Vietcong, with the prisoners kept in cages that are mthree quarters under water, & of course endless games of Russian roulette.

However, of course out heroes make it out of the camp & unmask the traitor, even though the bodycount among their own ranks growns higher by the minute.

When they after more battles witht he Vietcong finally make it to the arsenal, the group has been diminished considerably ... & then the guerilla girls try to keep the soldiers from blowing up the place at gunpoint, since they could make good use of the missiles. It ends with them battling among each other (& Joyce Godenzi losing an arm) before the Vietcong have caught up, & now even the girls know they have to blow up the missiles. A long & brutal fight follows, especially since the leader of the Vietcong, a crazy giggling general (Yuen Wah), seems to be a master fighter.

In the end though, out heroes blow up the place, but only three of them survive (Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and a third guy) ...

 

While the parallels to the warfilm classic The Dirty Dozen are obvious, Eastern Condors was obviously made to cashi in on the success of Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (1985) & the dozens of Vietnam-films that followed.

That said however, Eastern Condors does not seem in the least derivative. While Rambo: First Blood Part 2 was little more than an endless series of unimaginative shoot-outs, Eastern Condors is a triumph of creative action cinema, almost every action scene seems to have been invented especially for that movie & is executed with such a perfection that there seems to be no point in ever redoing it. And yet, the film seems to never show violence (& war is violent, no matter wihich way you see it) for the violence's sake, as the mood - with director Sammo Hung's typical lightfootedness - changes between broad comedy & heavy drama and back, often all in the same shot. Plus, Hung always keeps up the pace of his film & never forgets to entertain his audience.

In his career, Sammo Hung has proven himself as a master of action film-making (even if his merits were often overshadowed by those of his buddy/classmate/co-star), but still Eastern Condors is probably his best film.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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