Saturday, October 20, 2012
Life Gamble (1978) Review
Directed by Chang Cheh and produced by the illustrious Shaw Brothers, Life Gamble was released in the year 1978. The original title of the film was Sheng si dou and starred Sheng Fu as Yun Xiang and Philip Kwok as the blacksmith, Kuo Chui. This film brings together a martial arts plot that is rife with deceit, rivalry and avaricious and bloodthirsty assassins. With unique martial arts techniques and feats, this film is type cast with each character embodying a specific Kung fu form.
An action-packed thriller to say the least, the story showcases the lives of a group of assassins who have procured a coveted jade piece. Their ring leader and his trusty side-kick, played by Sheng Fu, the knife expert, hopes to keep the jade for himself and does not wish to share the loot with the other members. In what seems to be a game of life and death, the assassins go after the jade ruthlessly and mercilessly, fighting duels and even killing each other in the bargain.
Shirley Yu plays a con-woman with her aid, Meng Lo, and Sheng Chiang is hired by another woman to obtain the jade. Feng Lu joins the bandwagon and hopes to regain Kuo Chui’s lost favour. The latter was adept at crafting weapons for Kung fu masters through his art as a blacksmith. His only fee was to learn the Kung fu style from those he served, and thus become a formidable power himself. With rival groups hearing about the loot, the plot thickens as more assassins hope to get the better of the original assassins and grab hold of the jade piece.
The handless Feng Lu looses the said appendage in a duel and decides to renounce his way of life, only to be lured to his former trade when he hears about the jade. Kuo refuses to help him as the latter had tried to kill him once. A duel ensues between Sheng Fu and Meng Lo but results in a draw as the ring leader disrupts the act. Soon the Chief Constable and his daughter, played by Feng Ku and Kara Hui respectively, find out the whereabouts of the assassins and Kara dons the role of an undercover agent who tries to win the sympathies of Sheng Fu and reform him out of his evil ways.
Kuo is lured by an escort party who portrays to hand over the jade piece back to the police, but things take a turn for the worse. Hoping to be joined in his mission by Meng Lo and Feng Lu, Kuo gives the former, new weapons and knives and the latter an iron hand that is secretly rigged. The trio make their way to the ring leader’s mansion where all the assassins gather to have a final showdown of sorts. With daggers and knife throwers, the swordsman with an iron hand, this is a martial arts choreography at its best.
In a “gamble” for their lives, each one tries to outsmart the other and is left with the good being rewarded for being truly virtuous.