Eastern Condors/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Eastern Condors
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Sammo Hung stars in and directs this incredibly entertaining and action packed, not to mention hilariously funny hybrid of The Dirty Dozen, Rambo First Blood Part II and The Deer Hunter. This film is a real gem because Hong Kong is generally not known for great War genre films. For the cast we get a group of some of the best Hong Kong action film stars such as Yuen Biao, Yuen Woo Ping (action choreographer of Kill Bill), Yuen Wah, Joyce Godenzi and as a bonus Oscar winner Haing S. Ngor (The Killing Fields).

In 1976, 12 Chinese illegal immigrant criminals are hired by the US Government to go into Vietnam and find a secret missile stash and destroy it before the Vietcong army finds it. If the group succeeds they will be granted pardons for their crimes, $200,000 and a ticket to wherever they want to go.

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The scenes on the transport plane at the opening of the film is where we get to know about these Chinese criminals and their personalities. They may be hardened criminals but they bicker with each other like school children. The underlying humor in the film is apparent from the start. The leader of the mission calls out that they should all just relax because it will be another three hours before they arrive at the jump point. Theres a serious time lapse because in the very next scene, the group are told to get ready to jump. One of the men is a reject who cant speak correctly, he just stutters. Before the men jump out of the plane they are told that they must count to 20 before they pull their parachute cords on the way down. They all jump out ok, but before Col. Lam makes his jump, he is told that the mission has been called off. He tells the man to just explain he didnt get the order in time. On the ground, the group have to rendezvous with three Cambodian guerilla women who will be showing them where to go. When all the men land, they find that the stuttering one has been hurt badly, one of them runs over to check him out and all he says is "s-s-s-six-six-sixteen" and he dies, I guess he didnt get to 20.

The group hide in a small hut on a river where they wait to move out. Before they know it, the Vietcong show up and this is where we witness the first real action sequence of the film. Grenades fly, machine guns blast and the kung fu kicks and flips are exploding everywhere. The group make it out and take refuge in a town where they meet a loudmouthed salseman named "Rat" Chieh (Yuen Biao) and his mentally challenged brother Yeung (Haing S Ngor). The two join the group and tag along on the adventures ahead of them.

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One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Ming (Sammo Hung) uses palm leaves and creates these deadly darts to shoot into the VC's necks. Theres also another great scene where Ming jumps off a 60 ft cliff and lands on a VC truck perfectly. Its a really fun, but an unrealistic sequence that has that old school kung fu flavor. It actually reminded me alot of the high jumps Sonny Chiba did in The Streetfighter series. Some of the jungle battles with "Rat" vs. the VC soldiers is just top notch for kung fu choreography. When he kicks one of the VC in the head, even though its slow motion, he connects and it sure looks hard and brutal.

The film continues to take us through all sorts of twists and turns, like the group being captured by the Vietcong and put in a Deer Hunter style Russian Roulette game, a traitor inside the group that gets picked off and a deadly bridge confrontation that kills 2 of its members. The group finally find the underground missile base and get ready to set up explosives to destroy it, but soon the enemy are right behind and they have to fight them before they can escape. The finale at the end of the film puts the remaining members of the group against the strange Giggling General (Yuen Wah) and his soldiers. Yuen Wah's performance as the Giggling General is one of the big highlights of the film. He constantly fans himself, dabs the sweat from his face, giggles, screams orders or kicks ass with his kung fu skills. The last fight with Yuen Wah and Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung is some of the best onscreen kung fu action Ive seen. Just amazingly put together and its tied in with some big laughs as well.

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Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.
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