Review: Dirty Ho

Low-rent jewel thief Ho (Yue Wong) and travelling merchant Wang (Shaw Brothers legend Gordon Liu) play a game of one-upmanship, before Ho learns that Wang is actually a royal prince in disguise as a jeweller. Also possessing a mastery of kung-fu, he eventually agrees to act as sifu to the roguish Ho. Kara Hui turns up as a courtesan, whilst Lieh Lo plays an adversarial General, heir to the throne who tries to assassinate Wang.

The title obviously isn’t what you think. The lead characters are named Ho and Wang, but this is a con artist comedy with some martial arts thrown in and no sexual content at all, really. Directed by Lau Kar-Leung (the popular “36th Chamber of Shaolin” with Gordon Liu), this 1979 also isn’t any good. In fact, it’s a really lousy disappointment from the director who gave us my favourite HK martial arts movie “Eight Diagram Pole Fighter” (also featuring Gordon Liu). Scripted by Kuang Ni (“Infra-Man”, “The Magic Blade”, “Eight Diagram Pole Fighter”), this is colourful stuff but seriously infantile and empty. I got almost no enjoyment out of it, hell even most of the martial arts is too comical and not terribly impactful (the wine-tasting bit is just idiotic). It’ll be someone’s idea of fun, but I only woke up for the final 15 minutes of all-action. That stuff was fun as hell, but it was far too late. The rest is boring and extremely repetitive, with the plot barely existent.

I guess there’s some curiosity in seeing Gordon Liu in more comedic, light fare but it didn’t do a whole lot for me. His constant chin-stroking was incredibly annoying. It makes sense in his “Kill Bill vol. 2” role, because he was playing the long, white-bearded Pai Mei. Here it’s just dumb, he doesn’t even have a beard to stroke. The comedy is a little too Jackie Chan-esque and slapstick-y for my tastes.

A dud film with a cracking climax, this movie doesn’t seem to have any idea what it wants to be about. It’s very, very strange and for me rather off-putting, capped off by an abrupt ending that suggests the Shaw Brothers might’ve had a temporary absence of funds to provide (Unlikely of course, but that’s how it seems). Good-looking, well-acted, but I checked out long before this one started to get good. I get the feeling some of you will really love it, though.

Rating: D+


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