Thursday, September 3, 2015

Film Review: King of Beggars (1992)

King of Beggars (Review)
China/1992
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"The action was exciting, the drama was decent, and the humor was, well, humorous."

The story of So Chan (Stephen Chow), the king of beggars during the Qing Dynasty...

King of Beggars follows the lazy and spoiled son of a general in Canton — So Chan. Although illiterate and crass, Chan excels in martial arts. While visiting a brothel, Chan falls in love with a prostitute, Yu-shang (Sharla Cheung). In order to win her services, Chan battles with Chiu, a high-ranking government official. Eventually, Chan is told he'll have to become the King of Martial Arts in order to win Yu-shang's hand in marriage. Unfortunately, his plans snowball out of control and Chan is left as a beggar. Chan then has to find himself to defeat Chiu. It gets a bit formulaic during the latter half, but it does lead to an action-packed climax and satisfying ending.

King of Beggars is a mixed bag — none of it necessarily bad. There's a decent story with interesting characters, there's plenty of over-the-top wuxia-style action, and a pinch of Stephen Chow's signature humor. It all blends together for an engaging and moderately entertaining film. I especially enjoyed the action sequences, especially the over-the-top styles. Although it ends up taking a cliché route, I also thoroughly enjoyed the story. Like I said, nothing really stands out as bad in King of Beggars... I have some nitpicks, though.

First, the blending of these elements isn't all that seamless, like Kung Fu Hustle. Instead, it often feels like this is a film that doesn't know what it wants to be. One moment, it's an exhilarating action film, then it's a drama with cliché lessons, and finally it's a quirky comedy — the elements don't seem to blend without feeling unnatural — a nitpick, really. There are a few chuckle-worthy moments, but nothing really uproarious, either. Perhaps it was the lack of Stephen Chow's writing or the balance issues, but the comedy doesn't really take center stage this time around. It'll conjure a few smiles, especially thanks to Chow, but nothing laugh-out-loud or even memorable.

Stephen Chow plays his flawed-but-true character well. He's filled with charisma and charm, bringing life and energy to some of the film's slower moments. The supporting cast is also decent. The film looks and sounds good. I liked the costume and set design — it brings you into the Qing Dynasty. Writer and director Gordon Chan excels in the action sequences. The humor and drama are good, too. However, these elements don't blend seamlessly due to a lack of consistency and balance in the writing. It tells an interesting story, but not without a few flaws.

Overall, King of Beggars is a very good movie. I bashed it quite a bit, but, remember, I was nitpicking. I had a great time watching this film. The action was exciting, the drama was decent, and the humor was, well, humorous. For those Stephen Chow fans that haven't watched this film yet, I recommend it. Although Chow's signature humor isn't in the spotlight, he still offers a few of his signature laughs — and the rest of the film isn't bad, either.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, including some gore.

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