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Eastern Condors (HK 1987)

Director : Sammo Hung
Producer : Leonard Ho
Screenplay : Barry Wong
Action Choreography : Hung Brothers
Cast :  Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Lam Ching-Ying, Joyce Godenzi, Billy Chow, Yuen-Woo Ping.

Synopsis :
Asian POWs get a chance at freedom when the United States offers them a mission to destroy a secret depot of missiles in Vietnam.

by Martin Cleary

Regarded by myself and many Hong Kong action cinema fans as one of Sammo Hung’s best films, Eastern Condors is – surprisingly for Sammo – an unusually serious and intense film. Best described as an eastern ‘Dirty Dozen’, this Vietnam movie reworks several elements and ideas of Hollywood war films into an unmistakably unique Hong-Kong style. The film combines gunplay and dazzling martial-artistry with ease.

Set three years after the end of the Vietnam war, Eastern Condors follows a group of convicts whose mission is to find and destroy an ammunition dump left by the US during the war. The group consists of a mish-mash of characters, from the wise (but cowardly) Grandpa, to the tight-lipped Sammo. The group themselves have no idea what their mission is, they only believe that the mission must be better than spending their lives in jail. They are all told that if they survive the mission then they will win their freedom and $200,000. To give away any more plot details would be unnecessary, as what follows is a combination of the expected (i.e. seen-it-all-before because they’ve nicked it from another film) with the genuinely unexpected (good plot twists and amazingly performed).

The film is perfectly cast and the interplay between this group of misfits is engrossing. Supporting performances are especially strong, with an intense Joyce Godenzi (in her film debut) and Iron Monkey director Yuen Woo Ping as Grandpa who gives the film alot of heart. At the end of the day the film is, of course, dominated by the two heavyweights (in one case, literally) of the film – Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. Sammo looks the fittest that I can ever remember seeing him on film, and (despite an annoying 80s hairstyle) Yuen Biao proves yet again that he is one of the most underated martial-artists in cinema. The film is tense throughout, and there is a lot of action, most of which is very brutal. There are still glimpses of Sammo’s child-like sense of humour and Yuen Wah’s camp villain is excellent – he manages to combine humour with a lethal dose of fighting skills. Personally I think that the action-packed finale is one of the best ever filmed. There can’t be much higher praise than that. Eastern Condors is a classic film which has stood the test of time well (except maybe that haircut!). If you haven’t seen it, then I highly recommend that you do so!


Plot : 4/5
Acting : 3/5
Entertainment : 5/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
-Sammo’s upside-down tree attack
-Yuen Woo Ping’s suicide mission
-Big Sammo versus Skinny Yuen Wah
-The big, violent finale

Buy this movie at  YesAsia – Eastern Condor

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