Stranger from Shaolin
Starring: Cecilia Wong Hang Sau, Kao Kang, Liu Jun Guk, Wong Kwok Leung, Lee Ye Min
Directors: Liu Jun Guk, Bruce Lai
Action directors: Leung Ting, Yen Shi Kwan
“Why use a tool when you have your fists.” –Priest San Ter
The power-usurping Manchus, under the direction of the ruthless General Lord Kang (Kao Kang) murder the pro-Ming revolutionary family of Yim Wing Chun (Cecilia Wong) right in front of her eyes! Through the sacrifice of her father, Wing Chun escapes and flees to a Buddhist temple. There she is befriended by a generous older gentleman who is the caretaker of the abandoned temple. Wing Chun learns that she and the old caretaker have something in common: his family was murdered by the Manchus as well. Wishing to help her, the old caretaker suggests she go to the Shaolin Temple to train kung fu. The old caretaker knows Priest San Ter and even recommended another youth, Choy Tak Chung (Bruce Lai) one year ago. There is only one problem: Wing Chun is a girl and Shaolin Temple only accepts male students. As Lord Kang closes in on Wing Chun, the old caretaker relents and writes a letter of recommendation for Wing Chun as long as she disguises herself as a man and doesn’t give up on the strenuous training. Lord Kang and his men finally catch up to Wing Chun and the old caretaker. The old caretaker sacrifices himself and is killed by Lord Kang and his soldiers while Wing Chun watches as her boat floats on to her destination.
When she arrives at Shaolin Temple she is introduced to San Ter who assigns Wing Chun to fetch water for her older kung fu brothers. San Ter is especially hard on her; he aims to strengthen her by covertly teaching her Shaolin techniques to fetch the water. In the process Wing Chun befriends Fang Shi Yu and Choy Tak Chung. After overhearing a conversation between Choy Tak Chung and San Ter, Wing Chun realizes what San Ter is doing; she then trains relentlessly in the techniques. She starts to feel confident, sneaks out of Shaolin and confronts one of Kang’s soldiers. She is defeated, rescued by Choy and San Ter, confronted by Kang and she is revealed to be a woman! San Ter then refuses to teach her anymore, but introduces her to his elder Shaolin nun Ng Moy who takes Wing Chun away to begin her instruction. Ng Moy teaches Wing Chun a style that emphasis techniques in a small space. Wing Chun trains diligently in the style and Ng Moy names the style after Wing Chun due to her ferocity and diligence in training. Wing Chun along with Choy Tak Chung and San Ter confront Kang and his soldiers. Wing Chun uses her newly developed kung fu skills to counter Kang’s deadly Iron Body technique and his iron braid. Wing Chun exacts revenge not only for her family but the old caretaker and Shaolin Temple.
Stranger from Shaolin is a kung fu movie with a large amount of fights scenes. From the opening scene to the ending Stranger delivers on the amount of fight scenes. Some of the quality of fight scenes is sometimes lacking with the actors performing some hunch-back kung fu. The good side is that the Wing Chun techniques in the movie are largely an authentic representation of the style courtesy of co-action director Sifu Leung Ting (Wing Chun master). Cecilia Wong does an excellent job of performing the techniques and it’s clear that she is the star of the film. Kao Kang’s Iron Body and Iron Braid styles were enjoyable to watch especially in the fight between him and the Japanese swordsman. The performances of Wong and Kang made the movie more enjoyable thus earning three fists. Overall, the fight scenes were enjoyable thanks to the performance of Cecilia Wong and Kao Kang.
Stranger from Shaolin is an enjoyable movie, especially if you are interested in a re-telling of the origin of the Wing Chun style, the Shaolin vs Manchu dynamic or if you like strong female heroine characters. At times, this movie reminds me of a lower budget version of Executioners from Shaolin. In the end, however, the movie is a decent kung fu movie that should be added to your kung fu film library.