A box office disaster in Hong Kong and straight-to-video in Britain, this finds Lam working with a cast of unknowns in Mainland China, trying to freshen up an often-told story first filmed in Shanghai in 1928. (Tsui Hark, doyen of remaking/remodelling jobs, served as producer.) Fong Sai-Yuk (Chi) is one of many Shaolin monks arrested for fomenting anti-Manchu resistance and imprisoned in the Red Lotus Temple. Lam's big idea is to see the prison as a literal hell, governed by a depraved psychotic whose project is to create the Anti-Buddha; the best scenes pursue this dark vision, which extends to presenting the Shaolin hero Hong Xiguan (Yang) as an apparent traitor. Some of the acrobatic fights do seem grimly anarchic, but the endless booby traps grow tiresome and the film's 'dark side' is undercut by feeble elements of humour and romance. As a genre piece: too little, too late.
Cast and crew