Monday, August 08, 2005

[Screen Singapore] Ring of Fury

Ring of Fury was Singapore's answer to the Kung Fu craze sparked by Bruce Lee in the 70s. As a homage to the legendary master, Ring of Fury stars Singapore's very own eighth-dan world class karate master Peter Chong, whom I did not have the opportunity to meet, given that tickets sold out on the first screening, and I had just managed to buy the last ticket for the second. I reckon this is one very popular genre film like Cleopatra Wong, given the intense focus of the media on these 2 films.

The Tao symbol is prominently featured in the tacky opening credits, before the audience gasped at the Esplanade bay of the 70s, and the old Satay Club. The story tells of a gangster racket out to extort protection money from the hawkers. But Fei Pao (loosely translated as Flying Leopard, starring Peter Chong) refuses to pay, and is badly wounded by the gangsters.

However, his sense of justice prevailed, and continues his refusal, even after he's aggresively threatened. Eventually, the gangsters, led by an Iron Masked Man, took drastic actions and broke the last straw, which led Fei Pao to learn martial arts from his uncle.

Like in most martial arts flick of the time, revenge is always a motive for the pupil to learn and undergo hardship in order to master some pugilistic skills. Fei Pao goes into seclusion, and returns a changed man. But the baddies kidnap his lover Mei Mei, and gives him an ultimatum - to join them or never see his lover again. What choice does our hero have?

Needless to say, he eventually saves the day, and the mystery of the Iron Masked Man is revealed (well, sharp eyed viewers would have guessed it midway through the film). As with Cleo Wong, we are also treated to numerous kung-fu with exaggerated sound effects. But the charismatic Peter Chong brings forth an earnest appeal and what you see up there is actually the real deal.

Acting abilities are limited, as we have stereotypical characters like the gangsters, the damsel in distress, the kid brother, the blind mother, the mysterious uncle, etc, though Peter Chong at certain angles, looked like Bruce Lee, with his lightning quick reflexes and fighting stances and postures. Not that he's imitating, or wanting to on purpose though.

This film was actually banned in Singapore for more than 20 years, given its storyline on gangsterism and vigilante self-defence. However, when you view it in the context of today, it's nothing really, compared to the trash some films are generating today. Perhaps it has to do with the plot having the police doing nothing with the gangsters?

Age has caught up with the print shown in the Arts House, with the pinkish/purplish hue and loss/skipped cuts in certain scenes. The soundtrack was loud and soft at times too. Did I hear someone say digital restoration please?

Those interested in watching this film, my advice is to book/buy the tickets early, with additional screenings on 11 Aug 05 2130hrs at the Arts House, and 17 Aug 05 Wed 1900hrs at the Alliance Francaise.

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