King of Beggars (1992)
Director: Gordon Chan, David Lam
Tagline: Not your average Stephen Chow movie
So Chan (Stephen Chow) lives with his dad the General of Canton (Ng Man-tat) in relative luxury. His Dad wants hum to be a Kung Fu Scholar, only So is not that interested in the 'scholar' part and just wants to sleep.
For his 25th birthday, So has his party at the local brothel and runs afoul of Chui (Norman Chu) when they have a disagreement over a beautiful woman working there, Yu-shang (Sharla Cheung).
Unbeknownst to both of them, Yu-shang is actually an agent of the Beggar's Association. They are out for revenge after Chui killed their master.
It is a surprise to them when So stumbles into the room instead. After a bit of fast talking and trickery they get him to leave.
Later that night, we see Chui being carried along in a sedan chair when he is ambushed by the Beggars. He sits there drinking tea while spears almost get him on all sides and then kills all the attackers with a flick of his wrist. Yu-shang and her mentor arrive too late to do anything to their disappointment.
Back at home, So Chang tells his Dad that he wants to be a Kung Fu Scholar so they pack up the house (literally) and head off to Peking for the competition. So goes really well during the contest, only to find out that he has been set up by Chui to get back at him (So's dad had arranged for him to cheat on the written examination.)
Upon hearing the allegations of cheating, the Emperor strips the two of their possessions and orders them to be beggars for life. This is where the movie really takes off, with much pathos, fighting, plots to overthrow the Emperor and romantic themes that you would expect from this genre.
This is a different style of movie to what I have seen Stephen Chow in before. It is mostly a dramatic role for him and the comedy seems out of place in some scenes. I also thought some of the jokes were a bit crass (such as punching the 'Madam' in the face repeatedly.)
My favourite funny scene is the Kung Fu Scholar contest with Stephen Chow pulling funny faces and plenty of Bruce Lee references in the fight scenes. The scene where his dad locks him in a kiln and puts vicious dogs in the back was also great (especially the follow-up gag.)
The best dramatic scene is when So and his dad are forced to eat dog food by the local cops (they actually quite enjoy it strangely.) Most of the dramatic scenes are when they are forced to become beggars and So doesn't want to.
I really liked the Kung Fu style they made up for this movie "Sleeping Disciple Fist" (taught to So by a beggar named Hung Yat-san (Yuen Woo-ping) while So is sleeping, appropriately enough.) Some of the poses So ends up in while dodging the other opponents moves are really funny and it was great to see him dodge a sword whilst lying on the ground. The figthing style doesn't appear until quite a way through the movie though and it would have been great to see more scenes using it.
The action scenes are also great, including the Kung Fu Scholar contest, Yu-shang and her mentor fighting Chui and the final battle scenes where Cho runs across the heads of the Emperor's soldiers.
I thought all the supporting characters were great, especially the members of the Beggar's Association and the government officials.
The settings were also excellent in this movie, I mean how can you argue with the Great Wall of China as a backdrop?
Finally, I also enjoyed the fact that although this movie is based on a traditional Chinese story, you didn't have to know the story to follow it. I am currently researching Stephen Chow's back catalog of movies and hope to watch the two Royal Tramp movies as they look quite similar to this movie.
Bonus funny photos!