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The Asian ApertureShaolin Vs Wu-Tang
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, February 13, 2011    Share

Step back in time to the early 80's. Back when cable was fun to watch and all you needed was a pizza and a six pack of Coke to pass away all that time on a Saturday afternoon. Growing up in the 80's was indeed a fun time. Mainly because cable TV seemed so much better when I was a kid. On Saturday afternoons USA Network used to have a show called Blackbelt Theater that showed 70's and 80's Kung Fu movies. (Please see my article on Blackbelt Theater from PCR # 504.)

Yesterday, I was watching an old Kung Fu movie that would have found a home, showing on USA Network back in the 80's. Shaolin vs Wu-Tang (1981) has had a major influence on American pop culture thanks to the rap group, Wu-Tang Clan from Staten Island. In fact, their 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) contains several samples from Shaolin vs Wu-Tang. I had to crack up watching the movie for the first time whenever I heard a line that was used on that album.

Usually all these Kung Fu flicks follow the predicable pattern of someone's master getting killed and a student seeking out training to carry out revenge. What sets Shaolin vs Wu-Tang apart from all the rest of the low budget movies, is the twist that the student kills his own master and his own clan, the Wu-Tang clan, is out to get him. Director Gordon Liu (kung fu actor seen in 36 Chambers of Shaolin, Shaolin Drunken Monk, and both Kill Bill movies,) wisely avoids the standard genre clichés and produces an entertaining film that doesn't descend into chop socky monotony.

The movie starts out with Gordon Liu a Shaolin student wanting to test his skills against a Wu-Tang clan member. Later on, it is pointed out that Wu-Tang is an off shoot of Shaolin. A student's kung fu skills were so good that he was expelled from the Shaolin Temple and had no choice but to form the Wu-Tang clan. After Liu's character, Jun-kit spars with Chao Fung-wu, played by Adam Cheng, they both complement each other and there are no hard feelings. Both styles are shown as being good and useful.

I always loved the comparison of a kung fu fight to a chess match and two masters, each representing their own style, get together for a chess match at night. As the match is being played, Master Law is poisoned by tainted wine and he is ordered to give up the manual that contains the Wu-Tang Sword style. He refuses, vowing to protect that information to the death and he is killed by Chao.

This sets the whole plot in motion and it is a really cool idea, considering how plotless hundreds of kung fu movies can be. Kung Fu movies are really like reading an action packed superhero oriented comic book where the action stands out and everything else is secondary. Not so in Shaolin vs Wu-Tang where plot, character, and action all come out strong.

As is generally the case, Jun-kit joins the Shaolin Temple to learn kung fu and this is followed by beautifully filmed training sequences that most people would seriously injure themselves by copying. There is another cool twist because Chao must redeem himself to the head elders of the Wu-Tang clan for killing his master. He is finally freed from jail and begins intense training in the Wu-Tang style. So you have students from different styles training at two different locations.

Chao is only freed because Qing Lord the King over the land, wants to find out which style is the best so he orders the Shaolin Temple to select their best student. The Wu-Tang clan gets the same order.

Jun-kit will represent Shaolin as he is forced to fight against his long time friend, Chao. The two duke it out and reveal another twist as they discover they are forced to fight for the education of Qing Lord. Chao and Jun-kit join forces to combat the evil, Qing Lord, who is greedy with power and demands to be the best at all costs. The ensuring fight is a great one and worthy of Gordon Liu's best cinematic martial arts scenes.

So if you would like to see a movie from a time when life seemed better and you had nothing better to do on a lazy Saturday afternoon then to watch movies, check out Shaolin vs Wu-Tang and see if you are not tempted to call up your local kung fu kwoon to see about lessons.

5 out 5 Stars. (mainly for three cool plot twists.)

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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