The Magnificent Butcher
Year of release: 1979
Genre: martial arts
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Action directors: Yuen Woo-Ping, Sammo Hung
Producer: Raymond Chow
Writers: Wong Jing, Edward Tang
Cinematography: Ma Goon-Wa
Editing: Peter Cheung
Music: Frankie Chan
Stars: Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Fan Mei-Sheng, Wai Pak, Jojo Chan, kwan Tak-Hing, Chung Faat, Lee Hoi-Sang, Fung Hak-On, Lam Ching-Ying
Not rated; contains IIA-level mild violence and language
Movie Review Index
Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo-Ping teamed up in The Magnificent Butcher and created a great example of how the old-school kung fu genre should be done. There's nothing fancy about this picture, and some of the comedy featured gets more than a bit dumb at times, but where it matters -- the fighting -- this movie delivers excitement to the audience in spades.
The magnificent butcher of the title is Butcher Wing (Sammo Hung), who is not so magnificent, despite being a student of the legendary Wong Fei-Hung (played here by Kwan Tak-Hing, who made the character famous in a long-running series of films). Wing has some solid fighting skills, but doesn't quite know how to use them, which constantly gets him into trouble and causes him to be a mark for the slimy Tai Hoi (Fung Hak-On), who wants to use Wing as a fall guy for a series of crimes that he has committed.
Like many kung fu movies in the late 1970's and early 1980's that came out after the success of Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master -- which were also directed by Yuen Woo-Ping -- there is a heavy emphasis on comedy here. With plenty of low-brow humor punctuated by cartoon sound effects, this isn't exactly cerebral material, and it should surprise no one that Wong Jing served as one of the screenwriters. Matters aren't so bad, though, that the dopey comedy ruins the movie as a whole, and, in fact, if you're not a total cinematic snob, you might actually find yourself laughing at least a few times during the proceedings.
Where The Magnificent Butcher really shines are during its' action scenes, of which there are plenty. While The Magnificent Butcher doesn't display a great deal of inventiveness in weapon or fighting styles, there is a good amount of variety, leaving Yuen Woo-Ping and Sammo Hung (along with a team of five assistant action directors) a good deal of room to pull out all of the stops to make sure the audience doesn't leave a viewing of this film wanting for more fisticuffs. From beginning to end, The Magnificent Butcher is a fine display of the upper-tier of the kung fu genre and should not be missed if you consider yourself a fan.