Starring: Sammo Hung , Lau Kar Leung, Billy Chow,Max Mok,Meng Hoi
Directed By : Sammo Hung - 1989
copyright © 1989 Bojon Films
With so many films under his belt ,how do you pick 1 or 2 films from Sammo Hung that stand out from all the others ,when he has made so many great films and continues to do so.
Now if i said to you pick a defining Sammo film ,most people may say ''Eastern Condors' or 'Warriors Two' .Yes both these films are landmark Sammo films ,but you would be wrong to overlook 'Pedicab Driver ' as it's as much story driven as it is action driven.
The big thing against the film is ,availability of it on DVD any where in the world.It seems most of his films are becoming available in one region or another ,but between 1989 and 1995 Sammo made Four films on his Bojon label and these are not ready at hand.Though 'Don't Give a Damn ' 1995 was released as Burger Cop in the US.(why do they ruin the titles?)
It's all set in Macau in the 1930's Lo Tung (Sammo) is a rickshaw driver along with a host of buddies .The film starts of in a very light heart-ed manner when two rival rickshaw groups are having a meeting about who should carry passengers and who should carry cargo ,the discussion gets heated when they can't decide what happens when passengers have cargo or suit cases ,when all seems well the meeting is disturbed by a crazed man with a cleaver ,who is chasing a cat who has stolen his meat ,comes running through the meeting shouting and waving a weapon.This results in a misunderstanding and the two groups begin to battle.
Now what looks like a scene out of 'Project A' when the Police and Coastguards battle in the bar.The feuding rickshaw drivers start beating each other in what can only be a free for all ,with tables and chairs flying and all manner of implements used as weapons against each other.
Now this laughable opening scene is a far cry from what the film is really about as what we have here is a a love story about a group of rickshaw drivers and how trgedy strikes at the heart of their lives.
Now Lo Tung lives at his Aunties place ,which comprises of premises she lets to a Baker and his students.One of the students called Ping (Nina Li Chi) is a firm favorite of the master Baker who also has crush on her despite Ping being much younger then him. Now the other students like to tease Lo Tung and this causes trouble between the Baker and his Auntie who needs the Baker to stay so that she has a income.
On top of that Lo Tung also has affection for Ping to.
Now at the other end of Town their is Master 5 ( John Sham) who is a ruthless whore monger ,running brothels across Macau and always looking for fresh young girls.Having already dispatched one of his Prostitutes for running of with one of his men (Dick Wei) and having a child ,you can see he will stop at nothing for capitol gain.Ordering his thugs to beat up or kill whoever gets in the way .
Now Ping and the Baker are out one day when Ping is harassed by Master 5 and when the Master Baker steps in he is beaten by Master 5's top fighter (here played by Billy Chow).When it seems Ping is about to get abused Lo Tung arrives to stop the indecency ,and makes of with Ping in his Rickshaw.
Having been confronted and assaulted Master 5 gives chase with his men in their car across Macau.What we have here is a classic chase as Lo Tung tries to shake of the gangsters in a array of stunts that are a quite amazing.At one point Lo Tung is Riding his Rickshaw along a wall at 45degrees adjacent to the Thugs Car that is supporting it. But Just when they think they are safe the thugs turn up again and give chase destroying Lo Tung's Rickshaw leaving just the frame and pushing hm threw a gambling dens window and upsetting a game in progress.
This is where we meet the gambling Dens Boss (Lau Kar Leung) after Tung has fought and beaten the dens men and tried to recover Money Ping has dropped in the commotion.Now Tung must fight for Honor and to get back the money .What can only be described as a landmark duel between two of Hong Kong cinema's biggest stars.With a barrage of fists Tung attacks the Boss in a sneaky manner with shows of Monkey and Wing Chun Kung Fu,in turn the Boss fights back with classic Hung Gar and Eagle Claw.but being younger Tung gets the better of the Boss till the Experienced Gambler attacks with a 6ft Bo Staff and Tung must defend to save his head.It's one of the best Pole on Pole fights your likely to see and one that stuns as the Pops (Lau Kar Leung) jumps about and somersaults of tables with the zest of a man half his age.
Humbled by his experience Tung leaves with Ping ,but not without the Boss offering her Money back .
Now while this has been going on another of Tungs Friends 'Malted Candy ' and rickshaw driver has run over a young girl Hsiao Tsui (Fennie Yuen ) .After crushing her shoes and knocking her to the floor ,he offers to take her where she wants to go.
Now Malted Candy is blinded by her beauty and once dropping her off ,returns later with a pair of new shoes for her ,to replace the ones he damaged.This leads to them becoming friends and a relationship begins.
Also now Tung has decided he would like to court Ping and when the Baker tries to ease him out of the way of Ping ,Tung deals a blow to the Baker by revealing Ping in his Room with him whilst the two are talking.
So now the table is set You have two couples courting and their friends all decide to get together fro a meal,amongst them is Rice Pudding ( Meng Hoi) who is married with kids. Then we have Shan Cha Cake (Lowell Lo) a happy go lucky guy out for a good time and the elder of them all Sheng(Lam Ching-Ying).
It's here that the story takes a dark and seedy turn as Cha Cake recognizes Malted Candy's new girlfriend as the whore he had slept with the night before at a local brothel.When this comes to light at dinner ,the guys ridicule her resulting in her running away.Disgusted by their actions Ping tries to stop Tsui but to no avail ,after giving the guys what for! .Candy feels life is lost and not worth living ,now they plan a ruse to see if Tsui really loves Candy by taking him to the brothel where she lives proclaiming him dead.
More or less barraging there way in to the brothel they throw a presumed dead Malted Candy on to Tsui's bed .In a scene that stems on tragedy and comedy as Tsui cries and Candy gets thrown about playing dead.
After much conversation and heartache Tsui proclaims if he was alive she would still love him ,with this the guys who are leaving with his body throw hm to the ground and Candy looks up at her .
Now we are set for marriage between our love birds,The guys have hocked their Pedicabs to pay for the marriage ,Rice Pudding has loaned them a room in his apartment for the wedding night (even though he and his wife and kids are in the next room ) and ll seems hunky dory,or is it?
Remember this is 1930's Macau Brothel bosses are not gonna let their whores go off marrying people as we have found out earlier in the film.Tung has gone back home ,along the way buying Ping a Jade Bangle.Back at Rice Pudding's though where Cha Cake is sleeping under the stairs a group of thugs come storming in to reclaim our bride ,in a fight that has our couple fighting to stay alive and Rice Pudding torn between helping and protecting his family ,within the scuffle Candy and Tsui get out but not soon enough ,falling down the stairs they are confronted by more thugs from Master 5 and the mighty Billy Chow.Meanwhile Pudding has taken a beating and Sha Cake has run back to Tung injured after being machete'd .
Arriving at Tung's just before he has got to speak to Ping. Tung runs back to Rice Pudding's but to no avail ,upon arriving Our happy couple have been slaughtered and Pudding is injured but Okay,but Sheng who also got caught in the scuffle has lost his life.
In a rage Tung is about to get revenge ,telling Pudding to stay ,with his family ,but then his wife shouts ,don't worry i'll take care of the kids and we are set for a battle that will get your blood pumping and your anger out as Tung and Pudding infiltrate Master 5's mansion .
As our courageous two get in to the building ,Tung through the front and Pudding from above the fight will begin with Tung confronting a horde of thugs from all sides as Pudding comes in above facing Master 5 head on in sword duel.
The fight comes thick and fast as Tung smashes his way through master 5's men while tough man Billy Chow sits eating his food.but beaten and bruised Tung gets to face the mighty Chow in a fight that will have you thinking ''these guys should be in hospital'' With Tung coming out victorious Now having to face Master 5 who has Taken Pudding hostage ,but in a turn of fate it is Master 5's own father that ends the situation by attacking Master 5 ,leaving Pudding to throw Master 5 over a balcony smashing in to a vase and ending the fight.
Arriving to help come our Master Baker and Ping ,when all is finished ,Ting gives Ping the Jade Bangle he had Bought ,though now it is in pieces.And Master baker says he will take the blame so they can be together.In a look of disbelief Towards him the film ends.
So now you see this is a story as much driven by the drama as much as the fighting ,but of course it's the fighting that keeps you watching and waiting for the outcome .
But with out the tragic story of lovers slain and friends lost would the fighting be so important .i don't think so ! .This has got to be one of Sammo's best even though the budget may not be as big as some of his more known films.But saying that if the film got a decent release on say a label like 'Dragon Dynasty'' then may be it would get the gratitude it deserves.A truly memorable experience in film and one i hope more people get to see.
Score out of TEN = 9
review date: 18th July 2010.