Yuen Biao had began working as a stuntman for a while even getting the huge background role of being Bruce Lee’s body double in Enter the Dragon doing the acrobatics and stunts that Bruce Lee’s actual double was unable to perform. He got his big chance to be the lead with his full lead debut in the 1979 film Knockabout which was directed by and starred fellow Peking Opera brother Sammo Hung. With Knockabout, he not only got to show his amazing acrobatic abilities that he is best known for but also his comedic timing and his acting. Of course, when you watch a martial arts film, you don’t really see it for the acting but it is worth mentioning.
Yuen Biao and Bryan Leung play brothers who are just trying to make a living by stealing things. One day they encounter Jia Wu Dao played by Lau Kar Wing and are defeated by him so the brothers believe their lives may just turn around. They decide they want to learn martial arts from him and become his students. Once their skills have surpassed those of “ordinary people”, they soon discover Wu Dao’s deadly secret, turning the brothers against him. The story with Knockabout is quite enjoyable as you see at the beginning of the film these brothers just struggling to survive and having to do things like stealing to get by. Yuen Biao and Bryan Leung have pretty good chemistry and great comedic timing together in their respective roles. Sammo Hung, who plays a major supporting role as a fat beggar, is pretty darn good as well.
The martial arts choreography is absolutely outstanding. Yuen Biao definitely shows off his jaw-dropping acrobatic abilities and with the choreography he uses in the film. He is used to his strengths. Bryan Leung, who has no martial arts background, definitely looks like a master in this film. In one action scene, he is getting hit by two guys and flies over a table and then crawls under the table then gets hit by the two guys again and then repeat. Another scene has Yuen Biao jumping rope, martial arts style! It’s one of the coolest scenes ever. There are plenty of fight scenes in this classic film directed by Sammo Hung with the final fight sequence alone lasting for literally 12 minutes and it is easily one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. It’s hilarious when Yuen and Sammo use monkey style to go against the snake style used by Lau Kar Wing and the sound effects used to showcase is cheesy but funny. Just imagine monkey sounds while Yuen and Sammo mimic monkeys. For martial arts fans, the ending fight should be considered an extremely memorable one.
For martial arts fans looking for something to satisfy their craving for great martial arts fight scenes, I would highly suggest watching this gem. Back in the later years of period martial arts films, this is one that will hopefully make a lasting impression on you. Yuen Biao absolutely shines in his full lead debut and it definitely paved a way for his career to new highs in years after this film. If you didn’t believe in Yuen Biao’s abilities before (and I can’t see why you wouldn’t) then this film HAS to make you a believer! There is never a dull moment. It’s not perfect but it’s one of the best. Worth checking out!