Ban ye xiao zi (1980) Poster

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Kung fu-fighting 'ghost' turns thief into avenger
BrianDanaCamp7 August 2001
While it's entertaining and boasts a strong cast, THE YOUNG AVENGER violates one of the most important conventions of the kung fu genre by showing the hero going from inept fighter to kung fu master without the necessary training scenes to fill in the gap. The hero, Fu Yu, played by Wong Yue (best known for the title role in DIRTY HO), is a petty thief who knows just enough kung fu to fight back when attacked, but not enough to do much damage. At some point he undergoes training under the tutelage of a derelict posing as a ghost, who seeks to have Fu carry out his mission of revenge. We only see Fu perform a few lifting exercises, never any actual fighting training, yet when he squares off against the three main villains, he's suddenly a much more adept fighter. Yet his teacher had been beaten and left for dead by the same three villains during his earlier confrontation with them, so he was clearly not good enough to beat them, let alone teach Fu to do so.

Still, Wong Yue is very good (and quite funny) as a thief who robs jewelry from newly buried corpses so he can then pawn the stuff and gamble away the proceeds. The three villains are played by a formidable trio of kung fu actors and frequent villains, Norman Chu, Chiang Tao and Wilson Tong (who directed the film and saves the final big fight for himself).

The good fights don't start until an hour into the film and then come in quick succession. However, we don't learn enough about the villains to really care whether they get beaten or not. Nor are we convinced that Fu Yu would feel committed to the task of revenge, in which he has no personal stake, simply because this would-be ghost asked him. Fu Yu is, after all, a notorious cheat, thief and gambler, and never particularly brave. So there's a distinct lack of emotional involvement in the piece. It's an occasionally exciting kung fu movie, but not a classic.

There is one eyebrow-raising sequence showing a silent film being projected in a village hall with a live narrator relating the story to the audience. The film shown is a semi-porno reel about a farmer's wife who is raped by a burglar and, as she's being raped, comes to enjoy the act, which is interrupted by the farmer's return. It's not the only misogynistic scene in the film; at one point, the first villain stabs and kills his pretty girlfriend, who'd been taken hostage by the hero, simply because he's been led to believe, mistakenly, that she'd slept with the hero. At a later point, the hero breaks up a caravan carrying crates containing kidnapped, bound-and-gagged girls earmarked for a brothel. He beats up the villain in charge and sends the workers fleeing, but no one bothers to free the girls! You may need to see an Angela Mao film after this one.

The music score consists entirely of cues lifted from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack for Sergio Leone's DUCK, YOU SUCKER (1972, aka A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE).
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10/10
This is one of the best Kung Fu movies ever made.
Loveunderlaw13 July 2019
The fights were hardcore & realistic. Watching this now I'm sad Yue Wong has passed away.
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4/10
Doesn't offer much for the kung fu fan
Leofwine_draca18 July 2016
Despite the odd element of interest, THE YOUNG AVENGER is a generally disappointing kung fu movie with a slapdash feel. The film stars Wong Yue as a rather idiotic character who lives on the outskirts of the law. One day he encounters a vengeful spirit (!) who proceeds to train him in the ways of the martial arts so that he might be revenged upon the trio of thugs who killed him.

So far so interesting, as I always welcome supernatural elements in a movie. Sadly, a later twist in the narrative negates this interest, which leaves THE YOUNG AVENGER a merely bog-standard kung fu outing. It was directed by kung fu star Wilson Tong, who also appears as the chief villain; let's just say his high kicking is better than his technical expertise behind the camera. Yue's buffoonish hero is hard to take seriously, let alone like, and a lack of decent action rounds off a disappointing film overall.
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