Peking Opera Blues

1986, Movie, NR, 104 mins

Review

PEKING OPERA BLUES | DAO MA DAN
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A delightfully frenetic comedy-adventure, PEKING OPERA BLUES serves as a terrific introduction to the energetic popular cinema of Hong Kong. Set in China circa 1913, the fast-paced and complicated story centers on three young women from different social classes who become embroiled in a revolutionary plot to overthrow the military government. Surprisingly, one of the key players in the revolution is the beautiful Brigitte Lin (aka Lin Ching-hsia), the daughter of China's most powerful general. She and a male accomplice are ordered to steal some secret documents from her father's safe. Through a series of slapstick circumstances, a winsome but dim-witted street performer, a disaffected soldier, and the attractive daughter of the local opera house owner become involved in the plot and wind up comrades of the revolutionaries. Together, the five do battle with the army, the generals, and the secret police, with most of the zany action revolving around the colorful opera house. After a series of nonstop seductions, disguises, gunfights, kung-fu skirmishes, gymnastics, chases, double crosses, separations and reunions, the heroes succeed in getting the valued documents to the revolutionary leaders. The film ends with the five on horseback vowing to meet again someday before going their separate ways.

In an era in which most American films are either lifeless bores or cynical exercises in mass marketing (or both), PEKING OPERA BLUES is a welcome burst of manic energy that never fails to please. The skillful combination of breathtaking action and slapstick comedy in this film is nearly indescribable. Martial arts coordinator Ching Sui Tung's innovative choreography of the film's numerous action scenes is superb and the cast boasts three of Hong Kong's most popular actresses--Brigitte Lin, Cherie Chung, and Sally Yeh. They make a splendidly vivacious team and their ensemble comedic timing is flawless. Tsui Hark directs with a verve and style little seen on American screens and, while he always entertains, he also slips in some genuinely touching scenes and social observations.

A massive box-office hit in Hong Kong, the film proved popular with festival audiences in Europe and North America, who discovered that Hong Kong cinema had come a long way since the martial arts cheapies of the early 1970s. leave a comment

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