Director: Lau Kar Leung
Starring: Alexander Fu Sheng, Adam Cheng, Kara Hui, Hsiao Ho, Lau Kar Wing, Lydia Shum, Gordon Liu, Wang Lung Wei
Cat Vs. Rat follows Chao aka The Cat (Adam Cheng) and his struggles with fellow student Yu Tang aka The Rat (Alexander Fu Sheng) and both attempting to prove who is the better fighter. Their long suffering master (Lau Kar Leung) tells them that they are equally matched but both sides wish to better the other, with Yu Tang willing to go to ridiculous lengths. When the Emperor (Gordon Liu) is rescued by Chao and rewards him the title of Royal Cat, Yu Tang kicks the feud into overdrive and events are set into motion where the two martial brothers may have to rely on each other.
Unique because of its status as a comedy, Cat Vs. Rat features large sets, some unique weapons use, and a woefully kung fu inept Gordon Liu. The odd style will turn off some viewers but, for the most part, the film works. Fu Sheng is admittedly the main character here. He’s brash and arrogant and at times hugely unlikable. Adam Cheng is the opposite in the film; his character is patient, calm, and respectful. Surrounded by a good cast of Shaw Bros. regulars like Wang Lung Wei, Kara Hui, and Hou Hsiao, the film would seem congested, but is not.
Lar Kar Leung directs some pretty solid fight scenes, the standouts being his master vs. student fight using a 9 ring dao against Fu Sheng’s traditional jian and the bandit attack in the bamboo forest pagoda. These scenes are intricate and should satisfy those looking for the more straightforward of action scenes. The final action sequence featuring elements techniques has been said to be divisive among viewers, but I thought it worked. It’s unique and the action is pretty well put together, but the oddness and unfamiliarity of the style will make some wonder as to whether it was really Lau Kar Leung doing all the choreography.
The comedy is pretty broad with a lot of physical humor and the sequence with Fu Sheng clowning with a sleeping Gordon Liu is pretty cool. I have to say that when Gordon Liu sleeps in a film he looks like a Tex Avery cartoon character. The music is classic Shaw Bros. with horns and generally upbeat music considering the lighter tone of the film. Nothing really to set it apart from other Shaw contemporaries of the time, but solid nonetheless.
One of the lesser known entries by director Lau Kar Leung, Cat Vs. Rat is a fun and generally entertaining film. I am a fan of the more unique fight scenes and the inventiveness of the individual techniques, but while there are good fight sequences all around, there is nothing really standout. Fu Sheng plays a massive dick and in a less comedic film, he’d be extremely insidious, but he’s able to keep the mischievousness at the fore thanks to help from Adam Cheng and Gordon Liu. It’s a solid entry in any fan of Shaw Bros. martial arts films, though the pure ‘asshole-ness’ of Fu Sheng really had me against him.
You may like this film if you enjoyed: Heroes of the East, My Young Auntie, and Wing Chun