Smitten with the pretty sister of martial arts expert Chen (Lau Kar-leung/Liu Chia-Liang), evil gang-boss Tuan (Lo Lieh) does whatever it takes to make the woman his concubine: with some help from his equally scheming wife, Tuan frames Chen for rape, a crime punishable by drowning, but spares him this fate when Miss Chen (Kara Hui) declares that she is willing do whatever is necessary to save her brother's life. True to his word, Tuan allows Chen to go free, but not before making sure that the poor sap's hands are brutally crippled to ensure that he cannot seek retribution.
This being a traditional Shaw Brother's revenge tale, however, such dastardly deeds do not go unpunished: working as a street performer, Chen meets petty thief Little Monkey (Hou Hsiao) to whom he teaches the secrets of his powerful Monkey Fist kung fu (allowing for some really entertaining training scenes); after a few run-ins with local villains who have been causing trouble in town, Little Monkey confronts their boss, who—surprise, surprise—turns out to be none other than that scheming scoundrel Tuan! Major ass-kickery ensues...
It's been over twenty years since I first heard about this film from a friend, but I've only just gotten around to seeing it; if I had known at the time it was a Shaw Brothers production and that it starred HK cinema legends Lau Kar-leung and Lo Lieh I probably would have checked it out pronto, but alas, access to IMDb was still years away and I had no way of finding out any details about the film. Still, better late than never, and I'm glad to say that the wait was worth it: Mad Monkey Kung Fu is an excellent slice of old school fight action, a brilliant mix of expertly timed physical comedy and very impressive martial arts mayhem that, even at a massive 116 minutes long, never delivers a boring moment.
Monkey style always makes me laugh, what with all that comical twitching, scratching and screeching mid-fight, and this film sees Hou Hsiao giving it his all, acting the complete fool with ease whilst performing incredible acrobatics and dishing out some serious drubbings; Lau Kar-leung is just as impressive as his sifu, performing lightning fast moves and breath-taking somersaults; and Kara Hui also displays some impressive moves during her brief fight scene. Meanwhile, Lo Lieh proves why he is one of the finest baddies in the history of Hong Kong cinema, being utterly loathsome and simply begging for a bashing (which, of course, he duly receives before the final credits roll).
Take my advice, don't leave it two decades before YOU check out Mad Monkey Kung Fu!