Early King Hu film that wasn't quite what I expected. Don't watch this for the serene/ethereal martial arts vibes, what starts off as a somewhat tepid drama ends up being a precursor of John Woo's heroic bloodshed cinema. That's quite something for a Shaw Bros film from the mid-60s.
Ju Rui and Lao San are two painters who run into Hua, a woman employed by a local brothel. They decide to help her out, but the Japanese occupation of their village isn't making things easy for them. As the oppression of the Japanese invaders grows stronger, Ju and Lao will be forced to make a stand for their country.
Hu's clean style is already clear, but the first hour feels a little basic. There's a strong narrative focus and not much else, which makes it a tad dull. The heavy firearms in the action-packed finale make for a big tonal shift. While entertaining, it turns out that it's not really Hu's strong suit either, so it's no surprise he'd fare better as a martial arts directors in the rest of his career. Sons of the Good Earth is an interesting entry in Hu's oeuvre, but it's far from his best film.