Director: Li Ga-chi
Starring: Ling Yun, Barry Chan, Nancy Yen, Pai Yin
Militant Eagle revolves around a former soldier who finds that an enemy, thought long dead, is alive and in the process of mounting an open rebellion against the government. By joining forces with vengeance seeking locals, he uncovers the hidden mystery of a lost kung fu brother and attempts to thwart the power hungry warlord.
With a typical story full of clichés, there isn’t really much to keep the avid martial arts fan compelled, but for the ample fights and solid choreography. With action direction by Ho Wai Hung, fights are fun and diverse enough between hand to hand and weapons. Characters are stereotypical enough that it feels comfortable, and funny in the way chop socky films like this do. It has numerous unintentionally funny moments that aficionados and genre specialists adore and I really love the ridiculous costumes and reaction shots. There is a very memorable Mongol character who plays like an Asian Jaws from the Bond films. He is imposing, and though his martial arts aren’t very good, he has a grin that may haunt you for days.
Production is actually pretty good with colorful costumes and large open sets. Outdoor filming is well shot and I particularly liked the forest sequences towards the film’s end. The action is staged well and the deaths of the colorful villains are both entertaining and hilarious. A point I did not really care for was that the main villain did not truly seem skilled enough and was extra average. Aside from hits that looked hard, he simply did not have much presence of character, especially when compared to his henchmen. Also, he lacked the fluidity of other fighters and seemed too occupied with doing the move as planned rather than selling the choreography as an actor. It truly seemed out of place among the numerous solid fights in the film. Music is a good mix of Western style film stock and some traditional sounding instrumentals. Sound effects are typical of this era and the whoosh of cloth and slap of arms is always nostalgia inducing.
In the end, Militant Eagle is a fun little film that is ultimately forgettable and without much to set it apart from other films of its ilk. While derivative, almost to a fault, the film is nonetheless entertaining enough for a look back at the type of film which many remember filling our Sunday afternoons and instilling the love of martial arts films that we have today.