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Eastern Condors - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Dung fong tuk ying

Hong Kong 1987

Action, War

Sammo Hung Kam-bo

Sammo Hung
Yuen Biao
Lam Ching-Ying
Haing S. Ngor
Joyce Godenzi
Corey Yuen
Yuen Wah
Charlie Chin
Yasuaki Kurata
Wu Ma
Yuen Woo-Ping

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Eastern Condors

Story: After the end of the war there is still a silo full of American weapons somewhere in Vietnam. The American government wants to destroy those weapons before the Vietnamese army gets their hands on them. For this task ten Chinese-American prison inmates are chosen, among them being Tung (Sammo Hung). The unit is supposed to work as a decoy for the real operation of an American unit. Shortly before dropping down in enemy territory they get the information that the American unit has already been taken out. Now Tung and his buddies need to carry out their task. They get a helping hand from three guerrilla fighters (Joyce Godenzi and others) and Chieh (Yuen Biao), who by chance gets caught in the crossfire. However, the unit doesn't seem to stand a chance against the Vietnamese army, led by a despotic general (Yuen Wah), especially not since there is a traitor among them. The promised exemption from punishment and 200.000 dollar compensation aren't nearly enough reason to go through hell, but as Tung and his man soon realize they are already walking through it...

Review: "Eastern Condors" is one of those Hong Kong classics that you will constantly stumble across. But despite all the enthusiasm it should be pointed out that we actually have a B-movie here with a lot of action, aiming at pleasing a certain crowd, namely those that love this kind of action movies. "Eastern Condors" certainly isn't a real (anti-)war movie, but as an action flick it delivers everything the heart desires. Shootouts without taking a break, explosions and a showdown with a neat amount of kung fu. It's not just because Sammo Hung lost 30 pounds for this movie that you can tell how much of a favourite project this flick has been for the director and actor. But bad dialgoues and the lack of a real story eventually harm the movie more than we would like to admit. Because it certainly is a lot of fun.

Eastern Condors - Film Screenshot 11

First and foremost it is eyecatching that Sammo Hung ("My Lucky Stars") distances himself from his usual role as the comical fatty and plays an unusually serious character. The whole tone of the movie is quite dark, which is no less the result of all the depicted violence. There are a few funny scenes every now and then, which luckily don't feel out of place because black humor is skillfully made use of, but all in all people are constantly dying, which also leads us to the next problem. There is a lot of emotionalism and along with the poorly written dialogues you can't help but to roll your eyes. Then again there is a lot you are willing to forgive the movie for since this is a Hong Kong flick from the 80s after all and back then this oozed out its very own unique charm.

Eastern Condors - Film Screenshot 12

The cast is big and especially Yuen Biao manages to make an impression in his kung fu scenes. His showdown with Yuen Wah (both of them being opponents again in "Iceman Cometh") almost outshines those scenes with Sammo Hung. But there is never a doubt that all three of them are at the pinnacle of their physical prowess and deliver impressive action. Sammo Hung has come up with quite some ideas and like the rest of the film the action is so tough that you wonder how there weren't any serious injuries. Ok, Sammo Hung hurt his knees when doing a 50ft jump and had to shoot his scenes after that with some tricks, but it could have been a lot worse. Even Sammo's future wife Joyce Godenzi had to show absolute physical involvement in the movie and impresses with her role.

Since Sammo tries to follow in the footsteps of such classics as "The Dirty Dozen" or "The Deer Hunter" there are frequently obvious references. You also can't deny that the director has put together a big and ambitious movie, especially considering the circumstances at that time. There is stuff actually blowing up and not just on the computer screen. Even the shootouts aren't really getting boring. The violence depicted is relentless, as you wouldn't expect otherwise from a Hong Kong picture, and gives you the impression of actually standing in a war zone. You will easily be able to enjoy all of this, but it's also a guilty pleasure, because a good screenplay or more than just your usual bunch of archetypical characters would have been nice. At least this way the melodramatic scenes would have worked out the way they most likely were intended.

Eastern Condors - Film Screenshot 13

Despite all that "Eastern Condors" remains an action flick with an usual setting and ambitious action scenes. Particularly the showdown manages to score and there is never room for a breather. Sammo is in the best shape of his career, Yuen Biao shows some impressive acrobatics and on the whole the fight scenes look very real, making them painful just to look at, the kind of you nowadays only get from Thailand and such movies like "Tom Yum Goong". In spite of the obvious flaws of the flick you can't help but to take "Eastern Condors" into your heart because of its nonstop action, its notable cast (among it also action choreographers Yuen Woo-Ping and Corey Yuen) and a lot of explosions. Sammo doesn't reach the level of a war movie classic, but that probably wasn't really his goal. In its own way he still managed to create a classic, because how many "almost"-war movies are there from Hong Kong?

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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