AKA: Scorpion King, Operation Scorpion, Palette
Year of release: 1992
Genre: martial arts
Director: David Lai
Producer: Jessica Chan
Writer: David Chan, Barry Wong, Lui Sau-Fung
Editor: Poon Hung
Cinematography: Wong Bo-Man, Chang Ji-Chung
Music: Violet Lam, Gwong Wai-Hung
Stars: Chin Kar-Lok, Lau Kar-Leung, May Lo, Kim Won-Jin, Wu Fung, Victor Hon, David Lo, Frankie Chan, Yuen Shun-Yi, Tiffany Lau, Lawrence Lau
Not rated; contains IIA-level violence
Movie review index
Don't let Operation Scorpio's silly title and generic cover art fool you -- this isn't a dopey cheap spy thriller. Rather, it's a modern martial arts movie with a liberal dose of old-school flavoring that serves up tons of hard-hitting and high-flying action that should please fans of classic kung fu releases.
Chin Kar-Lok plays Fei, a student who spends his time drawing martial arts comics and dreaming of becoming a hero rather than studying. After he angers a local crime lord, Fei and his father go into hiding, and are taken in by a kindly chef, Lo (Lau Kar-Leung). Fei is put to work in Lo's kitchen, and combined with the training he recieves from the brawny Bull (Frankie Chan), eventually Fei learns a powerful and unique form of kung fu.
Operation Scorpio's plot isn't exactly ground-breaking. In particular, the "wash the pan" and "toss the noodles" moves Fei learns are highly reminiscent of the "wax on, wax off" bit from The Karate Kid. The pacing here could have also been a bit more crisp. At times, the film seems to meander about, especially with the romantic subplot between Fei and Jade (May Lo), of which a lot of screen time is devoted to, but really ends up going nowhere besides placing Jade in the standard "damsel in distress" slot.
But director David Lai, along with his triple-threat of action coordinators (Corey Yuen, Yuen Tak, and Lau Kar-Leung) pull no punches when it comes to the fight sequences, creating setpieces that are tremendously fun to watch. Wire effects are overemployed in parts, but when contrasted with some of the cringe-inducing stuntwork, Kim Won-Jin's titular scorpion fighting, and Lau Kar-Leung's usual impressively diverse mix of various styles and weapons, one can forgive the obvious wirework. In the end, Operation Scorpio is one of those movies that seemed to fly under the radar when it was released, but is well worth watching now.