Hitman in the Hand of Buddha (1981)


hitman in the hand of buddha poster

When a martial arts fighter (Hwang Jang Lee) arrives into town to help his sister and brother-in-law’s rice business, he gets more than he bargained for when a rival company starts using underhanded tactics to monopolize the business. As their methods result in some very personal and violent actions, the man brother must use his skills to fight the dirty and brutal villains.
Famed kung fu villain Hwang Jang Lee directs, writes, and stars in this mostly entertaining and fight filled kung fu film. Taking center stage as protagonist, he somehow successfully steps out from his own shadow as a villain and even has time to poke fun at himself in a bit of self referential humor at the beginning of the film. A number of unique fight populate the film including two terrific sequences against Chiang Wang. Some interesting choreography makes an appearance here with perhaps his use of chopsticks as weapon being most memorable. The villainous Eddy Ko shows up as the main baddie but his sequences lack the energy of the lesser villain played by Chiang Wang. The finale instead consists of a classic “form vs. form” fight that makes up in fun what it loses on technique. Hwang Jang Lee does make good use of his kicking repertoire with a handful of jaw dropping maneuvers.
The story itself is fairly generic but it never let’s itself get bogged down amd the proceedings go along at a good pace. A generally pointless beggar subplot could have been handled differently but was apparently added to flush out the running time and give an extra fight scene or two. The Shaolin temple bit also weakens the film a bit it serves it purpose despite introducing a couple unlikable characters.
The music is actually fairly memorable though perhaps not for the original score but because it apropriates music from Ennio Morricone amd James Horner’s genre work. It does fit the film but the common practice of stealing music definitely made it lose points with me.
In the end, Hitman in the Hand of Buddha marks an interesting departure from Hwang Jang Lee from villain to hero. For that reason alone the film is.worth a look let alone the better than average fights despite the generally by the books plot and character development. Chop socky in the best way, Hitman in the Hand of Buddha is essential viewing for Hwang Jang Lee aficionados.

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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