Hong Kong Cinema great Lo Lieh plays the indomitable Tieh Wu-ching who, with his band of brothers, hunts down a gang of four murderous thieves. A bloody game of cat and mouse ensues as each villain is unmasked, but events take romantic turn when Tieh seeks help from a blind girl.
A film from The Shaw Bros Studios by the highly influential director Chang Cheh - The Invincible Fist is largely enjoyable and lovingly staged, but with fight choreography that left me disappointed.
There's no doubt that The Invincible Fist is a beautifully shot film with lots to commend it. Chiaroscuro lighting gives a wonderfully atmospheric feel and every bead of sweat on Lo Lieh stoic brow shines. To this Chang Cheh is able to throw in armfuls of claustrophobic tension as the villains and their henchmen are stalked through the tall grasses and cornered in dingy teahouses.
The actors are good value too. Lo Lieh’s turn as Tieh your archetypal taciturn hero brings plenty of screen presence and shows some subtle tenderness in his scenes with Ching Lee playing the naïve Kuei Ku. Mien Feng as Ma Wei-chia, the mastermind and major antagonist, on the other hand I felt lacked the gravitas to be a credible threat to "Ruthless" Tieh.
As a Kung-fu movie it is unfortunate that it is the fight scenes that let the film down. The action is almost exclusively fought with weapons (there are very few fists, invincible or otherwise) and to the usual sabres and swords there are a few exotic weapons added for extra spice: each of the four brigands has his own unique weapon, including a deadly abacus! Typically for the time the fight sequences are simply choreographed and rely heavily on the use of jump-cuts to show the exotic weapons in action as well as the obligatory heroic leaping and wire-fu of the combatants. Sadly it is hard to see much martial skill on display and tight framing of the shots only adds to the muddle. I did enjoy the final fight however where the two injured men fought each other to the point of collapse.
Overall I thought The Invincible Fist was a better film than a kung-fu film. It was well paced and with plenty of atmosphere. Worth checking out.