Odd Couple – Bo Ming Chan Dao Duo Ming Chuang (1979)
Directed by: Lau Kar-Wing | 90 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Sammo Hung, Lau Kar-Wing, Leung Kar-Yan, Chung Fat, Mars, Dean Shek, Kam-Bo
The King of Spears (Lau Kar-Wing) and the King of Swords (Sammo Hung) are arch-rivals, who compete against each other every ten years to find out which of the two skills is the better. However, every fight ends in a draw and the masters feel that the years are starting to count. To find a solution to their problem, they both decide to train a pupil. The plan is that when they are ready, these pupils will compete against each other and a winner can finally emerge from the battle.
The King of the Swords finds his pupil in a young shopkeeper who is not easily extorted by the local thug. An ideal student has no parents, no wife and children, no property, but is bursting with anger. After the King of Swords burns the young shopkeeper’s house and turns the whole village against him, he complies. Funny here is that the role of the pupil is played by Lau Kar-Wing, who also takes on the role of Spear King. Incidentally, the action that has been featured so far, as in so many Hong Kong films, is a combination of dazzling Kung Fu and totally nonsensical jokes. Unfortunately, some of these clownish scenes really don’t add an iota to the movie.
Meanwhile, the Spear King bumps into a boatboy, who seems to have talent. After this boy has sacrificed his boat and thus meets the preconditions to become an apprentice, the hard lessons of the master can begin. Of course it is not really surprising that the pupil of the Spear King is played by Sammo Hung, the old Sword King. After several lessons full of wacky humor and brilliant fighting techniques, the students are sent off to complete their mission.
Along the way, a big game between the Apprentice of the Spear King and a thug team led by The Rocking Horse / Mr. Rocking (Dean Shek) which also includes the Apprentice of the King of Swords. While the pupils show that they have already mastered the tricks of the Kung Fu craft, spies report to a villain named Hyena (Leung Kar-Yan) what is going on in the village. Recognizing the youngsters’ techniques, the Hyena decides to capture them and use them as bait for his old enemies, the Kings of the Sword and of the Spear. Of course the masters try to free their students and of course this results in a huge fight.
The fight scenes in The Odd Couple are super fast and beautifully rendered. The protagonists are truly masters of the weapons they wield. The rivalry between the two Kings is humorous; even during the fight with the common enemy, they continue to nag each other. Some jokes, however, are so nonsensical that you get embarrassed (especially when you actually have to laugh!). The appreciation for this film is therefore mainly based on the bizarre antics that are performed without all those Matrix-like special effects that can make anyone a Kung Fu specialist since the late 90s. As far as fighting is concerned, this is rightfully a Hong Kong classic.