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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Operation Scorpio
Operation Scorpio
Fox // PG-13 // May 25, 2004
List Price: $9.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted June 27, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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1920. Yu Shu Fei (Chin Kar Lok- Avenging Fist, Drunkmaster 2) is a dreamer, absent-mindedly doodling in his sketchbook instead of paying attention to his studies. He wishes he were some kind of hero, someone who could stand up to bullies, but, while possessing a heroes heart he has none of the skill. While trying to flex some heroic muscle, he tries to help a servant girl, Jade, whose master is turning her over to a seedy brothel owner, Wang. But, this master and Wang are frequent official bribers and men not to messed with. They turn Yu Shu, his father, and Jade into wanted fugitives.

The trio hide out in Yu Shu's uncle's restaurant. Yu Shu wrangles his way into a local bodybuilding school and begins to train there part time, but he finds the most help in working with uncle (the great Liu Chia-Liang- Legendary Weapons of China), who has developed a kitchen friendly martial arts form. Yu Shu will need all the help he can get as Wang's men, including his formidable son (Kim Won-jun), close in.

Operation Scorpio (1991) is a pretty typical lower scale HK action b-film directed by Savior of the Soul's David Lai. It presents a more modern stylized version of the typical, worn out kung fu scenario- boy dreams of being kung fu hero, gets persecuted, trains his butt off, adopts some strange style, and with a little help rallies to defeat his enemies by the end. The story is a real yawner, but it is peppered with some amusing silliness and rarely pauses long enough to start dragging.

However, this is one of those films that rises above modest scale. How? Well, the action is good, new wave, wire fu. Star Chin Kar Lok is a fair milquetoast turned badass, and Liu Chia-Liang is one of the old school gods, who shows he still has the moves even at his advanced age (though it is nowhere nearly as impressive as his fight with Jackie in Drunkenmaster 2). But, the real revelation is Kim Wok-jun. He posses a limber body and leg/kicking prowess that almost puts Ken Lo, John Liu, and Hwang Jang Lee to shame. While he is often helped by wires, he still scuttles on the floor, does splits, and contorts like a Cirque Du Solei Bruce Lee. Never, to my knowledge, really capitalizing on the film, he just dropped off the HK action radar. I guess he just came around at the wrong time, during a period when HK action began to wane. Introduced ten-fifteen years prior, I can't see why he wouldn't have been a massive HK action star.

The DVD: Fox

Picture: Ananmorphic Widescreen. Image quality does show the lower budget bugs, mainly in the heavy grain. Still, the color is very strong and the overall sharpness very crisp, especially for a film of this genre. The UK DVD is softer, and Fox have clearly done a nice job with the elements. A B+ for a b-film image. No real technical quirks.

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS English or Cantonese audio options. English subtitles/"dubtitles". Once again, the remastered sound has some glaring new action fx replacing the original soundtrack. It really doesn't work that well. While the HK sound was no doubt hollow and generic, it wasn't as pumped up and obvious as this mix. Another troublesome thing, is that I noticed some instances where the effect didn't match (like a body thudding noise being used when a table was shattering). The film is still enjoyable, but Fox should have left well enough alone and stuck to the original soundtrack.

Extras: Chapter Selections— New and original trailers for Operation Scorpio, plus trailers for Young Master, Royal Warriors, Game of Death 2 and Prodigal Son.

Conclusion: Extremely mediocre story is elevated by the action talent on hand, mainly Kim Won-jun, whose jaw dropping skills make the film worth owning for any martial fan. I've certianly paid far more for far worse HK transfers. Luckily the disc is dirt cheap enough that I can forgive the middling quality and recommend it.

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