Current user rating: 90/100 (68 votes)
Shanghai, circa 1940, and the gangs run everything. Only the slums are safe from organised crime because there's no profit to be had.
Enter Sing (Chow), a low-life hustler determined – as a result of a childhood humiliation that taught him good guys never win – to be a bad-ass gangster.
Sadly, Sing is the one guy in pre-revolutionary China who can't do kung fu. Forget nunchukku. He can't even wield chopsticks. So to squeeze pennies out of unsuspecting scaredy cats, he masquerades as a member of the dapper – but deadly – Axe Gang.
Bad idea. These guys hack rival gangs to pieces then celebrate with a song-and-dance number in top hats and tails. Think of it as East Side Story with tomahawks and tuxedos.
But when Sing and his overweight, unnamed sidekick (Lam Tze Chung) enter the especially awful slum Pig Sty Alley their ruse doesn't wash with the locals, who are ruled by an iron-fisted, chain-smoking landlady (Yuen Qiu) and her drunken husband (Yuen Wah, Bruce Lee's former stunt double and onscreen opponent).
Before you can say "Hi-Yah!", the slum dwellers are revealed as kung fu masters who've been living in disguise among the poor.
There's a chef (Dong Zhi Hua), who uses his martial arts skills to shape pastry, and a gay tailor (Chiu Chi Ling), who uses curtain rings as weapons.
The shrieking landlady can run like Roadrunner and her hubby can bend his body like Plastic Man. The calamity soon grabs the attention of the real Axe Gang, who want a piece of the action.
And make no mistake, the action is as jaw-dropping as it is deliriously demented. Fight scenes are dubbed with the ringing sounds of pinball machines.
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