“More ambitious than kung fu”
Tian Si Si (Yim) is a spoiled rich girl, whose doting daddy pays kung fu fighters to give the illusion that she can beat them up. Despite his desire to wed her off in an arranged marriage to Yang Fan (Tak), Si Si runs off to meet her idol, Qing Ge (Chen), a true master of the martial arts, whom she knows only through the fictional tales of derring-do, told by her maid. Susequently, Si Si becomes the target first of con-men, then is sold to a brother, and when they realize who she is, becomes the centre of a scheme to force her into marriage, so her husband can inherit her father’s fortune. Throughout it all, Yang is about the only loyal friend, though when she meets her idol, she discovers that, while if he isn’t as depicted, he still has a courageous streak of his own.
This is clearly intended as a light and frothy confection, not to be taken seriously – witness the gambling contest between Qing Ge and his rival, which has much more in common with a modern game-show than anything from the period. However, the plot is actually smartly written, with enough angles and schemes to keep your head spinning, as you try to figure out who actually wants to help our heroine, and who is against her. I’m not normally a fan of this era of martial arts, often finding the action too obviously-staged. However, this is quite well put together, and I do appreciate camerawork which lets you appreciate the performers’ skills.
Indeed, as a film in general, this would probably rate a star or so higher, and is a fun 90 minutes: my main disappointment is that the heroine is really not the kung fu girl of the title. Apart from the initial encounter with the paid opponents, her “Sloppy Blind Man’s Sword” technique is hardly used. Though there are some other strong female characters – most notably brothel owner Madame Mei (Wong Mei-Mei), who clearly has physical skills beyond what you’d expect from her job – they are largely secondary and/or subservient to the male ones, with the possible exception of courtesan Zhang Hao Er (Choh Seung-Wan), who is certainly her own woman. But overall, entertaining fluff though this is, it only barely qualifies for inclusion here, rather than in our Hall of Misleading Advertising.