Crazy martial arts fantasy. Even though 100 minutes isn't particularly short for this type of film, it feels like they only had time for about one third of the plot and just crammed in the rest without worrying too much about whether it would make sense or not. The film is a continuous roller coaster that blazes through fantasy-driven fights and complex intrigues.
Six clans and a handful of outsiders battle it out against each other. It's not easy to keep track of the alliances being formed, all the fights, their conclusions and the constantly shifting intrigue, but ultimately it didn't matter to me. The action is amazing, the spectacle is grand and the pacing is so crazy that I could only sit back and be impressed.
The only awkward thing is that the film ends mid-battle. Apparently the sequel was binned after this film performed badly at the box office, so you're left with an unfinished story. Not a film I'd recommend to martial arts novices, but if you love the high-speed, high-octane Hong Kong martial arts cinema, this is one of the craziest you'll find.
A very nice surprise. I recognized some scenes from a Jackie Chan documentary I saw earlier, but within the actual context of the film these scenes were even more impressive. This is a true spectacle, where Chan lays down the basis for what would become a very fruitful and respectable career.
The beginning is a little hesitant though, as the comedy alone isn't really strong enough to carry the film. But once Chan starts his usual action antics that part is soon forgotten. The bicycle scene, the tower scene and the finale are legendary and a testament to Chan's skills, both as an action hero as well as a director.
Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung make fine additions to the cast, a trio that has dominated 80s Hong Kong action cinema and has more than put its stamp on the film industry. This is one of the best Chan films I've seen so far, a warm recommendation for everyone who likes his action work.
Though I love myself a bit of early 90s Hong Kong fantasy/martial arts, I'd never heard of this film before. Not too surprising maybe, since it's really just some second tier genre filler, but with someone like Sammo Hung involved both in front and behind the camera, you'd figure it would have at least has some kind of status.
Hong Kong was teaming with this type of fantasy/martial arts productions around that time, and The Tantana looks quite low-budget compared to some of the more infamous entries in the genre. It's not hard to see how this got snowed under, but that makes it an ideal film for rediscovery, especially for people like me who've already seen most other films in this niche.
The plot is as basic as can be (an unsuspecting guy turns out to be the big hero but must train with a master before he can take on the villain), but the comedy, action and fantasy bits are pretty amusing and the pacing is perfect. It's vintage filler cinema, but the kind genre fans will welcome at a time when they feel they've seen all there is to see.
Worthy but flawed
A lesser-known Sammo Hung feature. Hung directs and leads, but it's clearly little more than mandatory filler in order to pass the time between bigger projects. The Owl Vs Bombo is a pretty basic mix of comedy and action, with some mediocre dressing to fill in the gaps, which makes it best suited for completists.
When Hung actually takes his time to focus on the comedy and action, the film is pretty decent. A pretty silly but fun moment with a cherry is pretty hilarious and the end fight isn't too shabby either, but these moments only make up a small part of the film. They almost feel like leftover scenes from a better feature.
In between these scenes there's a lot of animosity and shouting that amounts to very little. The plot isn't very interesting, performances are rather weak and the soundtrack is terribly cheesy. At least the fun moments are spread quite evenly, so you never have to go too long without something interesting happening, but a good film this is not.