The Avenging Eagle ★★★½

The story here is standard Shaw Brothers material, though some of the more self-aware humor certainly keeps it from being entirely filler between the action set pieces. Quentin Tarantino advertised Sun Chung as the "Kubrick of the Shaw Brothers" for his New Bev double feature, which isn't a particularly revealing or apt comparison. However, Chung has a specific use of master shots in action choreography that emphasize the spatial locations of the fight. If Lau Kar-Leung's fights create a visceral effect, where you feel every blow as the camera moves which each body part, Chung emphasizes the body as an entire corpus moving together. Because we can see the whole bodies, each blow has to be more emphatically physical, and the work by the main actors here creates an intense feeling that these are real blows being struck, even when the camera is 50 feet away. Chung goes as far back to make the actors often feel like a minor part of the frame, almost akin to slow cinema where the fighting might only occupy 25% of the frame. But of course our eyes can only train on such visceral movements, and these long takes do well to keep us focused on the full totality of each movement. Since the takes often last two to three minutes, the fact that each movement by the actor has been impressive choreographed and then staged in real time becomes its own feat. If The Avenging Eagle lacks the philosophy of the Lau films, it certainly makes up for it in sheer virtuosity.

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